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Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding – Causes and Treatments

Woman holding an upper bite plate to prevent grinding her teeth together as she looks at her reflection in the mirror

Bruxism, also known to most people as teeth-grinding, is a condition in which a person clenches the jaws and grinds teeth involuntarily. This can eventually damage the teeth and may even cause headaches and jaw pain.

Teeth grinding can affect both children and adult but it is most common among those between the ages of 25 and 44. Sometimes people are not even aware that they are grinding their teeth because they do it at night when they’re sleeping. This is nocturnal bruxism which represents about 80% of bruxism cases. This condition is connected to other sleep disorders like sleep apnoea and snoring. However, teeth grinding may also happen in the day.

Current medical knowledge points towards these factors as possible causes of bruxism:

* Stress and anxiety with jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding getting worse when stress levels increase

* Malocclusion or the misalignment of teeth (note, however, that experts are still divided as to whether it is a cause or a result of bruxism

*  Sleep disorders

* Neurological conditions such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease

* Psychosocial problems

* Intake of antidepressants and drugs like ecstasy

*  Smoking

* High caffeine and/or alcohol consumption

Among the causes mentioned above, stress and anxiety are the most common. People who can’t handle stress very well are more likely to grind their teeth. The good news is, usually, when stress levels subside, bruxism stops, too.

Effects of Teeth Grinding on Your Teeth

When you clench and grind your teeth, they are put under pressure and the protective outer layer of enamel begins to chip away. When this continues, the dentine, which is the next layer of the tooth is exposed. When this happens, teeth become more sensitive to hot and cold food and beverages. Additionally, this puts your teeth at a higher risk of getting cavities. Teeth will also be more prone to fractures.

The first course of action often aims to prevent further damage. Dentists recommend that patients try custom-made mouthguards to protect their teeth even when they sleep. A mouthguard will keep the upper and lower jaw from touching and wear down teeth. It will also absorb some of the pressure that comes from clenching and grinding.

A mouthguard, however, is not a cure for bruxism. Instead, it is a helpful protection for your teeth and a “cushion” that lessens pressure and allows your jaw to relax.

Are you suffering from jaw clenching and teeth grinding? Dental Laboratory Associates can make one for you. Just give us a call and visit one of our partner dentists in your area!

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