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Teeth Grinding

Stop Teeth Grinding in your sleep at night, or at any time!

Teeth Grinding / Bruxism can have a variety of causes, and hence a variety of teeth grinding treatments are available. Teeth grinding in sleep is a most common type of sleep grinding, and is often treated using a teeth grinding guard in the mouth. In it's most severe form, teeth grinding can destroy most of your teeth and give you soaring dental bills - the earlier the teeth grinding treatment is commenced, the better the outcome. Definition, signs and symptoms, causes and treatment, are all covered below.

Why stop teeth grinding?

The effects of teeth grinding can be seen in the photo of a tooth that was subject to teeth grinding: The upper layers of the tooth have been sheared away and worn down to the tooth pulp - would be quite painful - and you can see the fractures and cracks running through the tooth, as well as missing chunks of tooth.
Teeth grinding causes the layers of the teeth to be worn away, and cracks to appear through out the tooth or teeth

Teeth Grinding CONTENTS:

  1. Teeth and tooth grinding preamble
  2. What does teeth grinding do? Why stop teeth grinding?
  3. Definition of Bruxism - Teeth Grinding
  4. Causes of Teeth Grinding
  5. Teeth Grinding Symptoms
  6. Teeth Grinding Treatment
  7. Night-Time Teeth Grinding in Children
  8. Teeth Grinding Guard
The above tooth grinding photo was courtesy of Dozenist

Definition of Teeth Grinding, aka Bruxism:

Bruxism is simply defined as excessive grinding of the teeth. Excessive clenching of the teeth can also be referred to as Bruxism.

  What is meant by excessive grinding of the teeth? Essentially any grinding of the teeth in the absence of food.  Teeth grinding brings considerable force to the surface of the teeth, causing much wear and damage, as the teeth were designed to tear up and chew food.  Food, being typically softer than the teeth, does not normally cause the teeth damage and the food also absorbs the powerful grinding forces of the teeth when being chewed, again sparing the teeth any direct damage.

Teeth grinding is also a disease process, as teeth are destroyed by the teeth grinding over a period of time.

Teeth clenching normally does little if any damage to the teeth, as there is no movement involved which would cause the teeth to rip into each other.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

The causes of teeth grinding are still being investigated, but teeth grinding may be caused by both physical and psychological factors.  Specifically:

1... Physical strain on the body may result in teeth grinding.  For example, dehydration or nutrient deficiencies have been shown to be associated with teeth grinding.

2... The involvement of psychological factors in teeth grinding include stress and anxiety.

3... Teeth grinding which occurs when one is asleep may sometimes be a sleep disorder in it's own right.

4... Improper alignment of teeth or fillings, crowns or bridges sitting too high, or jaw not properly aligned, may all lead to teeth grinding.

Braces may help to treat Bruxism by realligning teeth
Braces, like the ones in the photo above, can help correct a bad bite, and that can stop teeth grinding, if the teeth grinding was due to the bad bite of course.

Signs and Symptoms of Teeth Grinding:

Obviously any grinding of teeth when food is NOT present is the most obvious sign and symptom of teeth grinding.

Other tell tale symptoms of teeth grinding may include pain in the teeth and jaw, headaches, grinding noise, uneven tooth wear, teeth missing their sharper points, cracks in the enamel of the teeth, cracked or broken or chipped teeth, difficulty chewing and opening mouth due to jaw pain.

  Essentially, anyone with teeth grinding may also have these other symptoms, that can be caused by the grinding of the teeth.  However, having these symptoms is not necessarily indicative of teeth grinding, just strongly suggestive.  These symptoms can be caused by problems other than teeth grinding.

Teeth Grinding Treatment:

1...  Identify the cause of the teeth grinding and then treat the causes involved.   This may involve psychological counseling in stress management, biofeedback machines, muscle relaxants or braces (to correct the bite).

In the psychological counseling for teeth grinding, the aim is to impart relaxation skills so that the teeth grinder can lower their own stress levels and keep them lower.  The other side to psychological counselling for teeth grinding is to find any particular problems which are upsetting the teeth grinder and work them through so that they are resolved.

With biofeedback, for teeth grinding while awake, the teeth grinder is wired up to a biofeedback machine and is taught to identify when teeth grinding commences and to relax the jaws at that time.  If earlier symptoms to the actual teeth grinding are detected, they can be used also.  The person needs to be consciously awake to use and learn from biofeedback.

Muscle relaxants are for when the teeth grinder is asleep.  Typically taken in tablet form prior to going to sleep.  Muscle relaxants work to prevent teeth grinding via the drugs effect of relaxing the jaw muscles.  A teeth grinder would NOT normally take these muscle relaxants at any other time, as all their muscles would be relaxed, which could be a safety issue in many instances - just driving a car could be quite dangerous.

If you are required to have a check to see if the teeth grinding is a sleep disorder, you will normally be admitted to a sleep study center - often an adjunct of a hospital or university - for one night.  You will normally given some time to settle in and adjust to the bedroom you will be in, then a little prior to your normal bedtime, a nurse or someone will wire you up with sensors which will then relay what your body is doing, including any teeth grinding, to a computer.

  After the sleep clinic finishes, a wait of around two weeks may occur for the results to get back to your doctor about your night time or sleep teeth grinding.  If the sleep grinding is serious enough, the muscle relaxants or another drug may be recommended.

A dental check of the teeth may also reveal a cause of the teeth grinding.  Some times a check may reveal that a tooth is sitting too high - normally due to excessive filling in a tooth, or a crown or bridge that is sitting too high.  If that is the case, then the filling or crown/bridge may need to be filed down a bit or the crown/bridge removed and then refitted.  Once the bite is correct, the teeth grinding may stop.

  The check may also reveal that there is a misalignment of the teeth, in which case braces may be required.  Fixing the teeth may well get rid of the teeth grinding.

2... Teeth grinding that occurs while asleep may require a teeth grinding guard.  The purpose of the teeth grinding guard is to allow the teeth grinding to occur, but to prevent damage to the teeth by allowing the grinding of the teeth to be on a softer material than what teeth are made of, so that the teeth are not damaged by the teeth grinding.

3... Repair the teeth that have been damaged by the teeth grinding.  This will needed to be worked out with your dentist, but you may need anything from a simple fillings to crowns, or even a tooth extraction if the tooth is too badly damaged.  You may even need to have braces or artificial teeth.

Night-Time Teeth Grinding in Children:

Teeth Grinding in Children while they Sleep

Teeth grinding in children is particularly difficult to treat, particularly if it occurs while the child is asleep.  Any parent with a child with Down Syndrome is almost certain to know about teeth grinding.

 The noise caused by the grinding of the teeth during the night is enough to concern any parent, yet, teeth grinding treatment is difficult, because you have to be able to have the child comply with wearing a teeth grinding guard in their mouth, which is a really hard thing to achieve with a child -  Teeth grinding guards are normally considered the most viable treatment option for a child grinding teeth in their sleep.

  Many parents decide to worry about the teeth grinding when the adult teeth come through, when the child may be old enough to understand and comply with wearing a teeth grinding guard. 

There is also the hope that as the adult teeth come through, that the problem causing the child's night-time teeth grinding will also rectify- which is what happened with our son.

As a parent, you are also able to have your child investigated for the causes of the teeth grinding and to have any cause of the teeth grinding rectified, but, if your child is like my son, chances are nothing will be found that is  likely to be causing the teeth grinding.

What is a Teeth Grinding Guard?

A teeth grinding guard, also known as a Night guard, teeth grinding mouth guard, Bruxism guard,  Bruxism night guard, Bruxism mouth guard and rarely Bruxism appliance, are akin to a normal mouth guard.

  As teeth grinding guards are designed to withstand the grinding motion of the jaw, they do not have to be as bulky as a normal mouth guard, nor as uncomfortable, but teeth grinding guards still aren't a joy to use.

 The use of the teeth grinding guard is much the same as using a mouth guard - to have a proper fitting teeth grinding guard, normally requires going to a dentist and having a cast made of your teeth.  The cast becomes a mould.  The dentist then uses the mould to create a custom fitting teeth grinding guard.  You return to the dentist, have the teeth grinding guard tried in your mouth and have any problems fixed, then you take the teeth grinding guard home. 

Wash the teeth grinding guard after every use in the manner the dentist advises you.


Top teeth picture courtesy of Xenia.

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