bruxism (teeth grinding)
‘involuntary habitual grinding of the teeth, typically during sleep’
bruxism is a habit that affects around 8-10% of the population. it is broadly characterised by grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw that causes tooth wear and breakage, disorders of the jaw (pain and limited movement) and headache. it occurs in both children and adults but is most common in 25-44 year olds. however, most people grind and/or clench their teeth occasionally to a certain degree.
bruxism is classified into awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. the former is characterised by involuntary clenching of the teeth and jaw bracing in reaction to certain stimuli. there is generally no tooth grinding with awake bruxism. the latter is characterised by automatic teeth grinding with rhythmic and sustained jaw muscle contractions.
bruxism is further divided into primary, (that occurs without any prior medical condition) and secondary, where a medical or psychiatric condition is known. the teeth grinding observed during wakefulness and secondary bruxism can be associated with certain medications such as antidepressants or recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, and disorders such as parkinson’s disease, depression and major anxiety.
there are a number of possible treatments for teeth grinding, but only a few have been shown to be effective.
behavioural therapies and the use of mouth guards or mouth splints can be effective in managing the symptoms associated bruxism.
mouth guards and mouth splints work in the same way by reducing the sensation of clenching or grinding teeth, and also help prevent any wear on the teeth.
other treatments, such as muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene, may also help manage your symptoms.
if you grind your teeth while you’re asleep, you may need to wear a mouth guard or mouth splint to protect your teeth from further damage.
if you have an anxiety or stress-related problem, a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be recommended. the aim of CBT is to help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and how you act.
it may be possible to break the habit of teeth grinding using habit-reversal techniques.
making some simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking (if you smoke), reducing your alcohol consumption and managing stress may also help.