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Bruxism (teeth grinding)

About bruxism

Around 15% of people suffer from teeth grinding or jaw clenching, a trouble called bruxism. This affliction occurs during sleep in most cases, so they remain unidentified until a family member hears the grinding sound, or until the dentist notices the signs and symptoms. If diagnosed early enough, bruxism can be treated before damaging your teeth.

The causes of teeth grinding

In some cases, teeth grinding happens because the upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly. It can also be a reaction to pain caused by an ear infection, for instance, or a sleep disorder. Most of the time, bruxism is related to stress. Alcohol or caffeine consumption can worsen this affliction, leading to more severe grinding and clenching.

The effects of bruxism

In many instances, bruxism does not cause any harm. However, if it is very intense, it can:

  • damage the teeth’s enamel;
  • chip your teeth;
  • contribute to your teeth’s sensitivity to heat and cold;
  • cause excessive wear to your gums and supporting bones;
  • break fillings or other restorative dental work;
  • increase an emporomandibular articulation disorder;
  • create aesthetic damage.

Symptoms to watch for

  • teeth grinding, often violent, during sleep
  • fatigue of the jaw muscles, headaches and ear pain
  • frequent contraction of the muscles on the side of the face
  • sensitive teeth
  • teeth with a flattened bitting surface
  • unusual teeth alignment

Teeth grinding in children

Bruxism is often diagnosed in children. Three children out of ten grind or clench their teeth, most of them before the age of five. Teeth grinding can be the result of jaw growth, loss or eruption of a tooth, or the pain and discomfort caused by different afflictions, such as allergies and ear infections.

Just like adults, stress is also a cause of teeth grinding in children. In their case, it may be a temporary affliction that will disappear during their teenage years. However, some of them will experience bruxism all their lives.

Treating bruxism

Since stress is the main cause of bruxism, methods to reduce anxiety, such as counselling and psychotherapy can greatly help with teeth grinding. Other kinds of treatment can also be considered like physiotherapy or taking muscle-relaxants. People suffering from bruxism should refrain from drinking alcohol or caffeine.

When bruxism is severe enough to cause teeth damage, jaw pain or face muscles fatigue, the dental team might suggest that the patient wears occlusal splints during periods of teeth clenching, to prevent grinding.

Sometimes, replacing an old crown or filling, or levelling the teeth’s protruding surfaces to reorganize the occlusion can alleviate the symptoms. Ask our team for more advice on how to minimize discomfort caused by bruxism.