Grinding Teeth in Sleep – Issues Caused and Its Treatment

Did you know that a painful jaw, facial muscles and headaches are all symptoms of teeth grinding and clenching?  Tightness in the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) and muscles, can cause significant discomfort, and reduce the ability to open enough to eat and chew effectively. 

Injury to the tongue, cheeks and tooth wear are also common signs and symptoms when teeth grinding occurs regularly.  Teeth grinding in sleep is a common issue in today’s society and in many cases is linked to stress caused by work, family and social issues. People may also notice teeth grinding during the day in times of significant distress or hard work. 


What is teeth grinding? 

Teeth grinding is also known in the dental language as bruxism. There is a variety of contributing factors that can cause bruxism to occur.  It can range from stress, anxiety, concentration, medication, drug usage and sleep apnoea.  Managing these factors, it can assist in the prevention or reduction of teeth grinding. 


Issues caused by teeth grinding 

When teeth grinding occurs it can cause tooth wear known as attrition.  Attrition is resulting from tooth-to-tooth contact on the tops of our teeth where biting and chewing occur.  Over time, this excessive pressure wears and in some cases chips away at the biting surfaces of teeth. 

issues teeth grinding in sleep coopers plains

Small amounts of wear can be expected as a result of daily chewing as a normal part of the aging process.  When the attrition progresses more rapidly it can be very concerning, and there is a real risk of your teeth wearing out and requiring significant restoration.  This type of wear can occur to both adult and baby teeth. 

Teeth grinding can become a concern as it can change the look and shape of teeth becoming an aesthetic problem.  The teeth can become less rounded and more flattened in appearance in addition to jagged edges chips.  

It is also common to get inflammation and bruising of the tissues that support teeth, resulting in tenderness after grinding. 

Sensitive teeth can be experienced as well when the out layer, known as enamel, is worn down and the inner layer of the tooth, dentin, becomes exposed. 

In more severe cases tooth fractures and cracks can occur, which can be extremely painful.  Treatment for this can be more extensive like fillings, root canal treatment and even removal of the tooth.   


It is good to understand that bruxism treatments are available, so it is important to seek advice from your dental practitioner to determine what is best for you.  This can include the usage of a custom-made splint that is worn during the night to reduce the effects of teeth grinding.  Not only does this protect the teeth from wear, but it can also reduce pain in the jaw joint and muscle tenderness. 

In cases of moderate to severe wear, treatment like fillings or crowns may be a good option to restore lost tooth structure to assist with both aesthetics and function.  This can assist in preventing our natural tooth from being worn away further and add a layer of protection for the nerve/pulp of a tooth.   

Teeth grinding can occur when you are nervous, anxious, or concentrating so being aware of these times when you are doing this could assist you in identifying it and stopping yourself from doing it during the day. It is also common for people to clench during exercise or physical exertion. There is also an option to consider muscle relaxing injections ( more commonly used for cosmetic purposes) to reduce the amount of pressure the jaw muscles can produce. 

In recent years there is increasing evidence that teeth grinding is associated with sleep apnoea. People who snore or have sleep apnoea episodes may display signs of tooth wear, with clenching thought to be a reaction to the tongue and floor of the mouth relaxing too much and obstructing the airway. It is essential to have any suspected apnoea managed or assessed through your GP or a sleep specialist. This can be done in conjunction with dental treatment to manage teeth grinding in sleep.   

Drug usage whether for medical usage or recreational use can have side effects, some being bruxism.  It is important to talk to your doctor or GP about what side effects can occur and how you can manage them. 

If you are suffering from teeth grinding it is important to get regular dental check-ups with your dental practitioner so factors causing it can be identified and managed.  This will assist in reducing or eliminating the harmful effects it may have on your teeth.


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