Teeth Grinding, What are the Causes?
What are the Treatments for Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding is the more utilized name for bruxism which also may be called teeth clenching. The grinding and/or clenching of your teeth may easily result in soreness of the teeth, headaches, increased sensitivity, fracture lines and actual fractures of the teeth, as well as excessive and obvious tooth wear. There are many additional symptoms that are often associated with this grinding or bruxism, such as damage to existing fillings and crowns, enlargement of the chewing muscles, and tenderness of the muscles and teeth. Other symptoms may be joint pain and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome which often has headaches associated with it. This discomfort usually feels like it involves the temporal muscles which makes them cause a dull headache in the temporal area. You may actually think you have an earache and find that there is nothing wrong with your ear. The tenderness of the tooth comes from the increased pressure on the supporting bone and tiny ligaments which hold the teeth in the bone. The sensitivity to cold temperatures is a result of the pulp and nerve being inflamed from this pressure, but also from the wearing which may thin the enamel. This wearing lessens the thermal protection the enamel provides for the pulp within the tooth.
Teeth clenching (bruxism) may disrupt sleep by itself; however, bruxism may be caused by breathing problems such as snoring or sleep apnea. And often one of the associated symptoms may be stress, anxiety, or even frustration. Bruxism is an unconscious habit which is categorized as sleep bruxism or awake bruxism. Other causes may be the alignment of the upper and lower jaws, occlusion (how the teeth come together), familial history, medicine (antidepressants), hyperactivity, and medical conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. It is even said that attention deficit-hyperactivity (ADHD) may be a causative factor.
However, it is important to know that children in their mixed dentition state (some baby teeth and some permanent teeth), often grind their teeth making terrible noises. When all the permanent teeth erupt, the grinding in most cases resolves itself. The initial causative factor is that when the child is in the mixed dentition phase, their teeth just do not fit together properly and the strong jaw muscles “know” this and try to grind the interferences down. Once all the permanent teeth erupt, in the greatest majority of cases, the occlusion or bite will be more stable and the grinding and clenching wiabatees.
The most common problems associated with teeth grinding are TMJ disorders, headaches, and the sometimes obvious damage caused to your natural teeth as well as any fillings, crowns, or bridges. It also should be known that grinding of teeth (bruxism) usually causes little or no damage and no treatment is necessary most of the time but is required when there are associated problems. As in the case of children during mixed dentition age, no treatment at all is necessary.
It is thought that approximately 30% of the population are considered to be teeth grinders. And then about 10% of those, or about 3% of the population, are severe grinders requiring treatment. It is also known that most teeth grinding occurs at night.
If treatment for teeth grinding does become necessary, it usually consists of occlusal equilibration (correction in the bite or chewing surfaces of the teeth) or bite splints which wpreventnts further damage to the teeth and fillings, and may relax the muscles in the TMJ. Deep and moist heat applied to the TMJ helps relax the associated muscles as well as bring more healing to the area in the form of increased blood supply. Self-relaxation, muscle relaxants, or perhaps on short-term, medication for anxiety such as antidepressants may be helpful. But it is recommended that this treatment only be short-term.
Bruxism, clenching, or teeth grinding is considered common. Most people are totally unaware that they are experiencing this problem even though they may have evidence of serious teeth, fillings, or crown damage. There are some that say that increases in your intake of Vitamin C may be helpful as in the reduction of stress. The same thing can be said about the Vitamin B complex. One should include magnesium in their complex medication as it will reduce anxiety. The above improve one’s quality of sleep which lessens tension and anxiety across the board. The deep moist heat applied to the muscles of the TMJ improve sleep, relax the muscles, and lessen the tension.
The body requires exercise and good nutrition to remain healthy. The mouth sometimes gets overlooked. It should not be! Discomfort, and wearing down of natural teeth and fillings, and TMJ problems, if present for any great length of time, should be treated and eliminated as it becomes very important in total body health. So what should you do? If you develop any of these problems, and they are long-standing, see your dentist, which you should be doing twice a year anyway.
Life Member of American Dental Association, Emeritus Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Association of Implant Dentists