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Teeth grinding

Most people often clench and grind their teeth. Occasional teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, isn’t harmful, but when you grind your teeth regularly, it can cause damage to the teeth and several oral health issues.  

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Why does teeth-grinding occur?

While grinding your teeth can result from anxiety and stress, it usually occurs when sleeping and is caused by crooked or missing teeth or an abnormal bite. Grinding the teeth may also be due to a sleep disorder like sleep apnoea.

How will I know if I grind my teeth?

Teeth grinding usually occurs while sleeping, so most people do not know they grind their teeth. If you constantly experience a sore jaw or dull headache when you wake up, these signs may indicate you grind your teeth.

Many people discover they grind their teeth from a loved one who hears their teeth grinding sounds at night. If you think you grind your teeth, see your dentist for a mouth and jaw exam to check for signs of grinding, like excessive wear on the teeth and jaw tenderness.

Why is grinding my teeth harmful?

Sometimes, chronic teeth grinding can cause teeth fractures, loosening or loss. It may also wear down your teeth to stumps. You may need root canals, crowns, bridges, implants, and partial or complete dentures in these cases.

Besides damaging your teeth, severe teeth grinding can cause tooth loss, affect your jaws, cause or worsen TMD or TMJ and alter your facial appearance.

How can I stop teeth grinding?

Your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep. If your teeth grinding results from stress, consult your dentist or doctor about options to reduce your stress.

An exercise programme, stress counselling, getting a prescription for muscle relaxants or visiting a physical therapist can help stop your teeth grinding from occurring from stress.

Treating the issue can reduce or stop your grinding habit if you have a sleeping disorder that causes the grinding. Other tips that can help stop your teeth grinding include:

  • Reducing your intake of or avoiding drinks and foods containing caffeine, such as coffee, chocolate and colas.
  • Avoid alcohol as teeth grinding often increases after drinking alcohol
  • Avoid chewing on pens, pencils or anything that isn’t food.
  • Avoid chewing gums because it makes your jaws more used to clenching, increasing the risk of teeth grinding
  • Train yourself to stop clenching or grinding your teeth. If you notice that you grind or clench your teeth during the day, place the tip of your tongue between your teeth, as this practice helps your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Help your jaw muscles relax at night by placing a warm washcloth against your cheek before your earlobe.
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Do children grind their teeth?

Teeth grinding also affects children. About 15 – 33% of children grind their teeth at two peaks – when their baby teeth are coming in and when their permanent teeth erupt. Many children stop grinding their teeth after the two sets of teeth are complete.

Teeth grinding in children is more common during sleep than during the day. No reason explains why children grind their teeth, but possible causes are improperly aligned teeth, illnesses, medical conditions such as allergies, nutritional deficiencies, pinworm and endocrine disorders, irregular contact between the lower and upper teeth, and psychological factors such as stress and anxiety.

Grinding baby teeth may not cause problems, but teeth grinding generally causes headaches, jaw pain, TMD and wear on the teeth. Ensure you consult your dentist if your child’s teeth appear worn down or the child complains of tooth pain or sensitivity.

Tips to help a child stop teeth grinding

  • Reduce the child’s stress, especially before bed
  • Ensure the child’s diet contains plenty of water because dehydration can cause teeth grinding
  • Try stretching exercises and massage to relax the muscles
  • Ask the dentist to monitor the child’s teeth for signs of grinding
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Preschool-age children may not need intervention for teeth grinding, but older children may require temporary crowns or other methods like wearing a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding.

If you or your child experiences teeth grinding, our experienced dentist at McKennell Dental Practice can examine your teeth and recommend the right intervention. Visit us at 21 Churton Street London SW1V 2LY or contact 020 7834 8802 for your appointment.