Teeth grinding and clenching is also known as bruxism. This is usually an involuntary action that generally happens at night during sleep but can also occur during waking hours.
Symptoms may include:
- Tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ) pain. This is the joint just in front of the ear and is associated with jaw opening and closing
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Aching or sensitive teeth
- Cracked or worn down teeth
- Loose teeth and gum recession
What causes this?
It is generally believed that the most common cause of bruxism is related to psychological stress. Stress may be a result of unresolved and ongoing anxiety, anger and frustration.
Other factors may be due to the abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth (malocclusion) or a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants.
How do we manage bruxism?
- Your dentist may fit you with a custom made splint or mouthguard which can help protect the teeth and support the TMJ.
It is important to address the underlying causes of bruxism. Some tips to help you stop grinding or clenching your teeth are:
- Reduction of stress through counselling, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as soft drinks, chocolate, and coffee.
- If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe or massaging this area.