More and more in this world pandemic we are currently living through, we are seeing increased anxiety, stress and nervousness, which can exhibit dentally as teeth grinding problems. Teeth grinding commonly occurs during sleep, but can also occur during waking hours. People who grind their teeth or clench their teeth may be suffering from undue physical or emotional stress.
If people grind their teeth during sleep, their partners may sometimes complain they can audibly hear the horrible sound of the teeth gnashing and gnawing together. Whereas if people clench their teeth, this can go on unnoticed for some time due to no or few audible sounds being made during sleep. Both clenching and grinding of teeth can be hazardous.
It is known that teeth grinding and clenching can lead to long term disorders of the jaw joint known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or colloquially known as “TMJ disorder”. TMJ disorders are considered common and are known to affect about seven in ten people at some point in their lifetime. Teeth grinding can also lead to pain ranging from mild to severe, and a host of other dental problems.
People who grind their teeth often complain of grinding of teeth symptoms which may include waking with their teeth clenched tight together, tension or pain in their jaw or face muscles, tenderness, clicking or popping noises in their jaw joint (just in front of their ears) and even pain in the upper back part of their neck.
Teeth grinding can lead to difficulty in opening the mouth, limited jaw movement, and a stuck or “locked” jaw. Teeth grinding symptoms can also exhibit as pain when chewing, yawning or opening the jaw widely. Teeth grinding can cause headaches, earaches and a general feeling of an uncomfortable bite of the teeth. Teeth grinding can cause toothaches because severe or prolonged grinding can cause fractures of the teeth and associated pain. Teeth grinding can also lead to worn teeth over a period a time, where the teeth then look shorter than they should, and such teeth can become sensitive to cold or sweet.
People who grind their teeth mainly do so when asleep, but during waking hours they can sometimes be aware of clenching their teeth tight when stressed, such as when stuck in traffic or when concentrating on work, or even during strenuous exercise. During the day, they themselves, or others, may even be able to hear them grind their teeth or sometimes see or be aware of the tightness of their facial muscles when they are clenching and or grinding.
Your CP Dental practitioner may be able to see signs and discuss symptoms of teeth grinding with you during your regular examination appointment. Some signs of teeth grinding that dental practitioners can look for can include Linea Alba (horizontal scar tissue, often seen or felt as raised lines on the inside of your cheeks), and scalloped tongue edges (raised or bumpy sides of your tongue). Other signs of teeth grinding that can be seen by the dental practitioner can be loss of tooth structure or abnormal wear which can include chips, breaks, and fractures in the teeth. Some signs may only be subtle initially and so are best diagnosed by a dental practitioner.
It is important to note that teeth grinding may be reduced and prevented by a protective device called a dental splint, also known as an occlusal splint, “bite plate”, or “night guard” splint which is worn during sleep. If teeth need to be restored to repair wear or other damage from teeth grinding, this usually occurs first. Then, a dental splint can be made to help reduce the risk of further damage from teeth grinding.
The dental splint is usually constructed out of clear dental acrylic. Sometimes the dental splint may have a softer inner thermo-plastic lining to aid in fit and comfort of the device. The dental splint is made in a dental laboratory after some simple moulds of your teeth and mouth, and a record of the way you bite together are taken in the dental clinic.
While the dental splint is being constructed, there are some simple steps that should be followed to alleviate symptoms and minimise damage from further teeth grinding. A soft food diet should be commenced, and chewing on both sides of the mouth is encouraged. Try to avoid yawning or opening the jaw too wide. Warm heat packs can be applied to tender muscles to aid in muscle relaxation. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be of assistance. Your dental practitioner may also refer you for concurrent physiotherapy assessment and treatment.
If you have concerns that you are suffering from teeth grinding and associated grinding of teeth symptoms, please speak to your dentist as soon as possible.