Bruxism is a medical term that describes the act of grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw. Sometimes, people grind their teeth without it causing any symptoms or problems. However, regular and persistent teeth grinding can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw and it can wear down your teeth. Teeth grinding can also cause headaches and earache. Most cases of teeth grinding (nearly 80%) occur subconsciously during sleep. It is usually associated with contributing factors, such as stress or anxiety (see below). Bruxism also affects people when they are awake, although this is more likely to be clenching the teeth and jaw, rather than grinding. Most people do it subconsciously while they are concentrating. What causes bruxism? Bruxism almost always occurs in association with other factors. About 70% of bruxism cases that occur during sleep are thought be related to stress and anxiety. There is also a strong association between bruxism and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder where your breathing is interrupted during your sleep. Teeth grinding can also be caused by taking certain antidepressants. Your lifestyle can also have an effect. For example, regularly drinking alcohol, smoking and using recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, increase your risk of bruxism. Doctors sometimes refer to teeth grinding that is caused by an underlying condition as “primary bruxism” and teeth grinding associated with a medication, condition or your lifestyle as “secondary bruxism”. Treating bruxism There are a number of possible treatments for teeth grinding but only a few have been shown to be effective. Behavioural therapies and the use of mouth guards, mouth splints and mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are recommended treatments for bruxism. Other treatments, such as muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene, may also help manage your symptoms. If you grind your teeth while you are asleep, you may need to wear a mouth guard, mouth splint or a MAD at night to protect your teeth from further damage.
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Grinding the teeth can cause wear. The canines and the front incisors wear first. The enamel can be lost exposing the soft dentine underneath.
When teeth are ground from side to side particularly during sleep this can wear down the front teeth and the molar cusps can be chipped and damaged. Clenching also tenses the jaw muscles and creates impact within the skull. This may cause pain and headaches. An Occlusal Splint can be used to protect the teeth and prevent contact.