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Bruxism

A Guide to Bruxism

Dental patients who grind their teeth from time to time are unlikely to sustain any serious side effects as a result, but when this happens on a regular basis the pearly whites can become seriously damaged.

Some people can suffer from severe headaches, ear pains and discomfort in the jaw due to the pressure being placed on their bite as a result of this particularly nasty habit, which usually occurs when individuals are asleep – but it can also be brought on by stress and anxiety.

What are the different types of bruxism?

This oral health issue is usually classified in one of two categories:

Sleep bruxism – occurs when people subconsciously grind their teeth and squeeze their jaw muscles together during slumber – a noise that is often heard by partners or family members through the night.

Awake bruxism – is the name of the condition when individuals habitually clench their pearly whites while they are awake, but are not actually grinding. In most cases, people do this when they are concentrating.

Additional categories:

Primary bruxism – occurs without any underlying medical condition.

Secondary bruxism – is often caused by another condition such as depression or anxiety, medication including antidepressants or recreational drugs cocaine and ecstasy.

Is tooth grinding a common issue?

While it is not known exactly how many suffer with bruxism, it is thought between eight and ten per cent of the country’s population are affected by it at some point in their life.

The problem is common in both children – who do not usually experience the issue when their permanent teeth have formed – and adults, but usually occurs in people between the ages of 25 and 44.

Individuals who are suffering from either stress or anxiety are likely to develop from bruxism during their sleep or when they are awake, while those who partake in regular alcohol abuse, smoke tobacco and drink more than six cups of tea or coffee a day are also at an increased risk.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Although the problem can affect people in a number of different ways, it is likely many people will share the same side effects. The short-term issues brought on as a result could go away if sufferers simply stop grinding their teeth, however, the long-term effects can be permanent.

What are the short-term signs?

The majority of individuals will find they display no symptoms of teeth grinding, but for others, the issue can cause a lack of sleep.

Alternatively, some members of the public can develop headaches, as well as an aching jaw and facial muscles, tightness and stiffness in the shoulders and earache.

What are the long-term effects?

Individuals who live with this problem for a substantial period of time can experience a number of long-lasting effects, including:

  • Worn and cracked teeth, which can lead to the requirement for dental treatment due to the development of a abscess or infection if left without professional assistance.
  • Stiffness and discomfort when moving the jaw joint, which is also known as temporomandibular joint disorder.
  • Sensitive teeth.

What are the causes of teeth grinding?

Stress and anxiety: Dental professionals estimate that nearly 70 per cent of bruxism cases occur as a result of an emotional issue that is affecting a patient subconsciously during sleep such as professional issues or particularly difficult life events.

Medicines: Teeth grinding can also be brought on as a side effect of taking some psychotropic drugs – which are those that affect a person’s mood – including antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Lifestyle factors: The issue is also more common among people who regularly drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or take recreational drugs including ecstasy and cocaine.

Imperfect bite: Patients who have an abnormal bite – which is when there is an issue with the top and bottom teeth coming together – or have missing or crooked teeth are also likely to be affected by bruxism.

If people feel they are affected by this issue they should be sure to attend an appointment with a dental professional, who can identify the ailment.

Is there any way to treat bruxism?

Procedures carried out to treat teeth grinding usually aim to address any underlying causes, including:

Protecting the teeth

Patients may be asked to wear a mouth guard or splint during the night that will even out the pressure in the mouth, while also creating a physical barrier between the pearly whites to protect them from further damage and reduce the noise made at night.

Mouth splint – is usually created by a harder plastic and measured specifically to fit over the upper or lower teeth and is commonly more expensive than a mouth guard.

Mouth guard – looks a lot like the type of protective equipment worn by a sports player, which is normally produced from a bendy rubber-like plastic that can be custom-fitted.

Patients should be aware that protective gear purchased from a pharmacist is unlikely to sit as comfortably in the mouth as those created by a dental professional.

Although this equipment will reduce muscle activity in the jaw during the night, they can only control and will not cure the condition – so some individuals may need to seek additional treatment.

Addressing the underlying cause

Psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and other methods can help individuals who are suffering from stress and anxiety, which may be causing them to grind their pearly whites.

This aims to assist members of the public manage their problems by changing how they think and act.

How can I prevent wider dental issues?

It is important for patients to maintain an effective oral health routine – including brushing and flossing – as well as visiting a dentist for regular check ups in order to monitor and examine issues.

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