Bruxism in Charlbury, Oxfordshire

Charlbury Dental Practice
The Spendlove Centre, Enstone Road, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3PQ

other treatments » tooth clenching and grinding (bruxism)

Bruxism is the technical term for the habit of grinding and clenching your teeth. Most people will do this from time to time and it does not usually cause any harm. However if you grind your teeth on a regular basis, it can cause significant damage to your teeth and make any gum disease worse. In some cases it can also cause or aggravate headaches, or pain and discomfort in the jaw.

Why do I clench and/or grind my teeth?

Teeth grinding usually occurs subconsciously during sleep and so you may not be aware of it. Also, when you are awake and concentrating, you may find that you habitually but unconsciously clench your teeth and jaw.

Often bruxism occurs without any underlying medical condition. However there are a number of causes that have been linked to bruxism, including:

  • stress or anxiety
  • malocclusion, where the upper and lower teeth don't fit together properly
  • antidepressant medications
  • recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy
  • sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea

Bruxism is more prevalent in people who regularly drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or have lot of caffeine (more than 6 cups of coffee a day).

Can bruxism cause any long-term damage?

Bruxism may lead to a variety of problems.

  • Excessive grinding can damage teeth and dental fillings, often resulting in loose or broken teeth and cracklines in teeth
  • It can cause the outer enamel of the teeth to slowly wear away, leading to tooth sensitivity
  • It can cause jaw dysfunction, headaches (particularly morning headaches), and pain in the muscles of the face: bruxing causes the muscles to be overactive, giving rise to these symptoms
  • It can cause inflammation of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Noisy tooth grinding may disturb your sleep - or your partner's!

How common is it?

Lots of people suffer from bruxism; it is estimated that up to 10% of the UK population is affected by it at some point in their life. It can occur in both children and adults and is most common in adults aged 25-44.

Amongst children there are some estimates that 15-33% grind their teeth. In most children it occurs during growth and has no long-lasting effect; the habit tends to stop when their adult teeth are fully formed.

How long does bruxism go on for?

This varies enormously. In adults and teenagers the duration depends on the cause. If it is stress-related, bruxism can go on for many years. If it is related to dental problems, such as improper alignment of the teeth, bruxism often stops if the misalignment is corrected. The outcome is excellent if appropriate action is taken.

Most children outgrow bruxism: more than 60% of children between the age of 3 and 10 who grind their teeth will stop this behaviour by the time they turn 13, even without help.

Can a dentist help?

If you experience any of the signs of bruxism, consult your dentist who will carry out an examination of your mouth with special attention to your jaw and your bite.

Your dentist will help you to understand why you might be clenching or grinding your teeth and suggest ways to break the habit. They will check for missing or broken teeth, improper tooth alignment and tenderness in the muscles of your jaw and discuss with you any lifestyle issues which may be contributory causes.

Is there an effective treatment?

There isn't a cure for bruxism, although it may be possible to break the teeth-grinding habit and there are a number of treatments which might help with this.

Your dentist will discuss appropriate treatment options with you. These may include:

  • a dental device that covers the front teeth and protects the rear molars, to be worn at night
  • a specially designed mouth guard or repositioning splint to wear, usually at night, to correct the alignment of your jaw
  • crowns or onlays to give a new shape to the teeth biting surfaces
  • occlusal equilibration to correct minor misalignments of your teeth
  • orthodontic treatment to correct more significant misalignments of your teeth
  • simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking and managing stress.

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