Do you wake up in the morning with a ‘tired jaw’?
Or do you regularly suffer from earache, headache/migraine, tinnitus, neck pain, insomnia?
There is a very good chance that you are suffering from a medical condition known as ‘bruxism’, which is caused by clenching or grinding your jaws, either throughout the day, or while you sleep. A visit to the dentist will help you find out if this is a problem you have.
Statistically, between 15-38% of children do this (although the majority will stop naturally by the time they are 13 years old), and between 5-20% of adults do this also.
Children grind their teeth for a variety of reasons, too. These include anxiety, illness and stress, pain, and dental misalignment. As children’s teeth pop through, it can be quite painful and cause the child to grind or clench their teeth. Studies have shown that in children having tension headaches, there is a strong likelihood of them having the symptoms of bruxism.
Regardless of a person’s age, anxiety and stress are most likely to be the major culprits causing bruxism!
Why do we grind our teeth?
Well, the causes can be emotional, or physical. Factors such as stress, anxiety, unexpressed anger or frustration, or disturbed sleeping patterns come into play, as do things like dental misalignment, genetic disposition (did/do your parents grind their teeth?), particular drugs and medications, certain illnesses, allergies and inadequate diet/dehydration.
What are the risks of teeth grinding or bruxism?
There are a number of issues around bruxism, and here are some of them:
- Facial pain
- Teeth pain (sensitivity to cold, hot and sweetness)
- Popping/clicking noises in the jaw
- Nighttime grinding of the teeth can cause sleep disturbances for partners and roomies
- An increase of jaw and dental problems (TMD – Temporomandibular Disorders; TMJ – Temporal Mandibular Joint)
- Fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth. Chronic grinding can result in bridges, root canals, crowns, implants, even partial/complete dentures.
- Misalignment of teeth
- Receding gums
- Difficulty in chewing and eating, reduced appetite, leading to nutritional problems
- Reduced capacity to open the jaw
- Impressions of your teeth on the sides of your tongue
- Wear on the insides of your cheeks
How do we deal with bruxism?
The most commonly known treatment is the use of a splint or mouth guard. It’s generally worn at night, and it prevents the upper and lower teeth from getting in contact with each other.
Other measures you can take are the following:
- Sleep! Get plenty of it!
- Avoid hard/chewy foods like nuts, whole apples, and lollies
- Drink plenty of water
- Apply ice/heat packs to the jaw area
- Facial/neck massages, working on the trigger points
Behavioural relaxation therapy can help reduce underlying anxiety in conjunction with specific exercises to relax you, and work on the balance of the action of the muscles and joints on each side of your head, which can give you relief.
Also, make a habit of relaxing your face and jaw muscles daily.
Do you think that you might suffer from bruxism without realising it?
If you are having trouble eating, or opening your mouth, go and see your dentist! And if some of the above self-help options don’t help you, again, see your dentist. And bear in mind that TMJ symptoms can be caused by other things (e.g., arthritis). While bruxism isn’t a life-threatening condition, it can eventually cause much discomfort and cost.