Bruxism (Medical term for the habit of grinding/clenching your teeth).
Who is most at risk? – You are more likely to suffer from bruxism if you:
- Have a stressful lifestyle
- Drink large amounts of alcohol
- Take medication for sleep, depression or anxiety (paroxetine, fluoxetine and setraline)
- Drink six or more cups of tea or coffee a day
- Have sleep apnoea, snore, or talk, kick or punch in your sleep
How common is it?
It is not known exactly how many people have bruxism, but up to 8-10% of the UK population are affected by it at some point in their life. It can occur in both children and adults, but is most common in adults aged 25-44. Most people will do this from time to time, which does not usually cause any harm, but when teeth grinding happens on a regular basis it can permanently damage the teeth. In some people it can also aggravate headaches, earaches and pain and discomfort in the jaw. There isn’t a cure for bruxism, although it may be possible to break the teeth-grinding habit by trying habit-reversal techniques. For those with a known stress-related problem, you can speak to your GP about cognitive behavioural therapy which may help treat any underlying stress or anxiety.
Meanwhile, you may need to wear a mouth guard or mouth splint (sometimes referred to as an occlusal appliance) at night to protect your teeth from wearing down, and may be advised to make simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking (if you smoke) and managing stress. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to increased dental problems, such as tooth fractures leading to root canal treatment and inflammation (swelling) as well as pain around the jaw joint. Generally, medication is not used to treat bruxism.
Tips to prevent bruxism
- See your dentist for regular check-ups.
- Train yourself not to grind your teeth: when you find yourself doing it, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth so your jaw muscles get used to relaxing.
- Try to be aware of any stress and anxiety you are feeling and how it is affecting you. Find some relaxation techniques that work for you.
- Cut back on alcohol as it tends to make sleep bruxism worse.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid recreational drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine.