As if “the daily grind” weren’t enough, some people – between eight and thirty one percent of the general population – suffer through “the nightly grind”: bruxism, or as it’s better-known, teeth grinding. Keep reading to learn more about teeth grinding – what it is, its causes and effects, and possible treatments, and how specialized mouth guards can help.
Bruxism: A Brief Primer
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching – actions not related to speaking or eating. Bruxism may occur during wakefulness, though the majority of cases take place during sleep.
What Causes Bruxism?
Despite the fairly widespread incidence of bruxism, its exact causes remain unclear. Grinding one’s teeth during wakefulness – awake bruxism – is usually associated with stress and anxiety, and is regarded as semi-voluntary.
Grinding and jaw clenching at night – sleep bruxism – is, too, most strongly associated with stress, which may underlie or exacerbate abnormal neurotransmitter. Acid reflux, reduced salivary glow, and swallowing, may accompany sleep bruxism.
Research also suggests a link between bruxism and sleeping face up, obstructive sleep apnoea, genetic predisposition, malocclusion (poorly positioned teeth), sleep disorders, and a wide variety of other medical conditions. The use of certain medications – particularly SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and many recreational drugs, may increase the risk of bruxism.
Negative Effects of Teeth Grinding
Bruxism, whether acute or chronic, can be problematic. Negative effects include:
- Chipped Teeth
- Jaw pain
- Sore facial muscles
- Localized swelling
- Limited mouth opening
- Disturbed sleep
- Sore neck and shoulders
- Gum recession
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Loose teeth
- Sore tongue
- Damaged or lost fillings
Left untreated, bruxism can result in long-lasting migraine headaches, an overdeveloped jaw, temporomandibular joint disorder (commonly known as “TMJ”), and jaw joint hypermobility.
Though the possible causes of bruxism are myriad, reducing stress and anxiety is often a first-line treatment, due to the strong correlation between stress and bruxism.
A popular non-pharmacological approach to stress management is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). CBT helps manage stress by changing how patients think about and react to people, situations and surroundings. Stress and anxiety can also be reduced by practicing yoga, deep breathing and meditation. Pleasurable activities, such as gentle exercise, reading, and spending time with friends and family, can also help.
Awake bruxism, though only semi-voluntary, may be reduced through habit-reversal – a technique that involves noting and recording when you grind your teeth or clench your jaw. Being aware of your reaction to stressful situations may allow you to respond differently – for example, by taking a few deep breaths, and relaxing your jaw muscles.
Physical therapy, which may include stretching, jaw massage, and learning to place the tongue in an optimal position, can balance facial and cranial muscles, and reduce muscle tension. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can reduce treat pain and inflammation, while a muscle relaxant taken prior to sleep may help prevent night time grinding and clenching—though that’s something best discussed with your GP.
Can a Mouth Guard Help?
If bruxism is causing serious problems, such as chipped or loose teeth, temporomandibular joint disorder, chronic headaches, tinnitus, jaw hypermobility or damaged dental work, it may be time to try a mouth guard. Teeth grinding mouth guards shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a last resort – they can be used in conjunction with many other forms of bruxism treatment.
A Teeth Grinding Mouth Guard is not a cure, but will help minimise damage while you work our treating the problem. Always consult with your dentist if you have trouble with teeth grinding or if you are planning on using a mouth guard.
Mouth guards – flexible, soft guards which fit over your teeth, and are typically worn at night – are clinically proven to protect against the negative effects of teeth grinding. A custom-fit teeth grinding night guard protects tooth enamel, creating a barrier between teeth, and preventing enamel erosion. Night guards also reduce jaw tension and decrease clenching frequency and intensity, by preventing your jaw (which can exert considerable force) from closing fully.
Given that no two jaws or sets of teeth are alike, it’s best to choose a custom-moulded night guard, to ensure correct fit and retention. Some guards – such as the one mentioned below – are made using an impression taken in the comfort of your own home, and are built to the same level of quality as the far-costlier versions found in dental offices. As mentioned, it’s important to address the root cause (no pun intended) of your bruxism, augmenting the primary treatment modality with a night guard can hasten relief.
Best Professional Teeth Grinding Night Guard
This mouth guard is designed and made by a company called Denlab Direct Limited, who specialise is creating professional grade custom fit dental products. Their products are used by dentists and consumers. You’ll find that a lot of other mouth guards out there come in a generic “one size”, but this Denlab guard is moulded to the exact shape of your teeth.
Here’s how it works:
The kit comes in a professional box with everything you need to create the perfect fitting mouth guard. Having your dentist provide a teeth grinding guard could cost you around £200, but this kit will produce the same professional, high quality guard at a fraction of the cost.