Grinding your teeth can lead to a whole bunch of health issues

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a condition that sees us clenching our jaws and grinding our teeth either during the night or at times throughout the day when we’re feeling especially stressed and tense.

And while the act might seem harmless besides the odd ache, experts are warning that not addressing the issue could lead to serious damage to both your teeth and your jaw. This is everything they want you to know, from why teeth grinding occurs to how to stop and treat it.

If you find often find yourself waking up in the morning with a sore jaw or even regularly have to give yourself a headache-relieving temple rub after a hard day’s work, listen up. Chances are, you’re one of the six million people in the UK that grinds their teeth.

Why am I grinding my teeth?

While certain medications and sleep disorders can cause teeth grinding, the predominant cause of teeth grinding is stress, which explains why it’s such a hard thing to stop. Dentist, Dr Emma Cunningham explains, “The issue with bruxism and teeth grinding is that many people don’t realise they’re doing it. Some of my patients admit that they do regularly notice their jaw aches, especially in the morning as they condition can worsen at night, but many also clench their jaw throughout the day.”

And the fact teeth grinding is so often caused by stress means that the recent rise in concerns from experts makes sense. Dr Pujaa Patel, founder of UNNDOO says, “Bruxism is more common now than ever due to individuals going through increased stress and anxiety due to the global pandemic.” With the uncertainty of the past year and a half causing a rise in stress levels (65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020), it’s no wonder that concerns over teeth grinding are so high.

What are the dangers of teeth grinding?

Besides the fact it can give you a very stiff jaw that causes discomfort, there are some more serious issues that you should be aware of, especially seeing as it’s incredibly hard to stop. “Most of the time, people are unaware that they grind their teeth.

Tell-tale signs are that you wake up in the morning with pain around your jaw or temples, you wake up with a headache and/or neck pain or that you notice your teeth are chipping or feeling jagged,” says Dr Patel.

And identifying the problem is the first step in preventing more serious damage. “If left untreated, the whole face can distort and become squarer,” says Dr Cunningham. And most obviously, it can seriously damage your teeth, potentially resulting in sensitivity, cavaties and even infection and abscesses. “Damage to the teeth is also problematic as the support structure of the face can be lost, so patients present with lower facial sagging,” warns Dr Cunningham.

So, what we be done to stop teeth grinding?

First of all, you need to address the likely cause. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, raise the issue with your GP. “Treatments starts with a thorough investigation to first establish the causative factor – if it’s stress, I would advise the patient on options to improve their overall wellbeing, including meditation, exercise and other stress-relieving activities,” says Dr Cunningham.

For more serious cases, Dr Cunningham advises that Botox can be administered to reduce clenching. “We inject Botox into the masseter which alleviates the contraction of the muscle. It helps in terms of the sheer force of muscle contraction which helps to prevent broken teeth and subsequent distortion of the face.”

If you’re already seeing the effects of long-term teeth grinding, it’s worth chatting with your dentist to discuss which options might be available for you. “Should a client require dental work because of chronic bruxism, I look to employ a non-invasive approach where possible. Composite build ups can be effective in rebuilding areas of a tooth that require support,” says Dr Cunningham.

However, in extreme cases, full mouth rehabilitation might require very costly correction through braces, bridges, crowns, veneers and, in some cases, implants. So, if you’re worried you might be grinding your teeth, now’s the time to seek expert advice!

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