4 Commonly Asked Questions about Teeth Grinding

Posted on: 21 September 2016


Teeth grinding is a common night-time problem that presents a unique challenge: because it occurs during sleeping, many sufferers don't know they have it. In fact, many people only discover that they have the problem once they have a partner who will notice it. Teeth grinding can cause dental problems if left unchecked, primarily because of wearing down the enamel during grinding. Below are common questions about causes and treatments for teeth grinding.

What causes teeth grinding?

The causes of teeth grinding (bruxism) are not well understood, but different studies have associated bruxism with genetic predisposition, certain drugs and medication, psychological triggers like stress, depression, emotional instability and anxiety and neurological factors like brain chemistry and genetic factors.

How do I know I have bruxism?

As stated, people find out they have bruxism from their close family and friends if they happen to sleep in the same room. If you're alone, however, you should be concerned if you wake up with aching jaws, muscle pain/tenderness around the jaw, neck and head, headaches, worn teeth or tongue indentation.

If left untreated, symptoms can escalate to full-blown migraines, ear complications, tooth cracking/breaking, loose crowns/teeth and chronic jaw muscle pain among others. Tooth damage as a result may be extensive, necessitating expensive and complex restorative work. The chronic pain can in turn lead to increased stress and even depression, which in turn can cause more grinding in a vicious cycle.

How is bruxism treated?

Treatment of bruxism is complicated because causes cannot be well established. Instead, what a dentist will do is administer therapies to reduce the impact. The most common treatment is prescribing a customised mouth guard to be worn to sleep. Medication may also be administered, but this is only done temporarily and is no replacement for the mouth guard.

Are there alternative treatments?

Teeth grinders often find their mouth guards uncomfortable and hence are constantly looking for alternatives. As stated, bruxism is a chronic and incurable problem and therefore medication isn't a sustainable option. Some doctors may prescribe antidepressants and anticonvulsants temporarily, since long-term use brings its own set of complications. If you cannot wear a mouth guard for a short period of time, talk to your dentist about a Botox injection to numb the jaw area – this will have to be repeated once the effects wear off.

Treating the possible causes can reduce grinding instances, especially where the condition is stress-induced. This can be done through physical and stress-reduction therapies, alternative treatments like acupuncture and yoga etc. Some people report these to reduce their stress and hence the bruxism. Self-awareness training can also make patients more attuned to triggers like daytime bracing and clenching, helping them to reduce night-time grinding.