Effects of Clenching or Grinding your Teeth
Most people clench or grind their teeth occasionally. Doing this from time to time doesn’t do any harm but if it occurs on a regular basis teeth can be damaged and other complications can arise.
Grinding is similar to snoring in that patient’s never know they are grinders until we tell them about the signs we see in their mouths. It can be caused by stress and anxiety, but also likely to be linked to an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. Also grinding can be caused by sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea.
Symptoms of grinding include headache, sore jaw on waking and often their loved ones complain about the noise they are making in their sleep. As a dentist the signs that indicate grinding are enlarged or tender grinding muscles (masseters), tooth wear, broken fillings or fractured teeth, cheek ridging and a scalloped (irregular shaped) tongue.
Chronic grinding ie. Grinding a lot over a long period of time can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Severe grinding can wear teeth down to stumps. When this happens its necessary to build the teeth back up again using filling materials or crowns and the problem is that the grinder will damage the new restorations causing them to fail. So in the end the only thing we can prescribe is a denture.
Other complications of grinding include Tempromandibular joint pain or dysfunction and enlarged muscles of mastication can change the appearance of your face.
So how do we stop all this from happening? ……I hear you say!!
Wearing a night-guard appliance can protect your teeth from grinding during your sleep. This appliance is similar to a sports gum shield- just thinner and easier to wear. We offer a “training device” which isn’t the ideal textbook appliance for €100 but we recommend a proper hard acrylic appliance to be made within 12 months. This is usually necessary regardless because severe grinders wear a hole in their training appliances .
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth then reducing your stress levels may also reduce the damage to your teeth. Attending stress counselling or starting an exercise programme might help you manage the stress in your life.
Oral muscle relaxants might be helpful but these type of drugs are addictive and driving would be prohibited. Injectable muscle relaxants such as Botulinum toxin is also an option and works very well in relaxing the masseter and the other muscles of mastication. This is a treatment that we offer at Church Street Dental.
Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:
- Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as cola, chocolate, and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.