Stress is a major cause of teeth grinding
The causes of teeth grinding are now for the most part known, allowing for effective prevention and treatment. Teeth grinding is often associated with people who are under stress. It seems as time goes on, there is more and more stress for us in our society. The main causes of stress are financial, career and relationship complications. Stress can cause unconscious clenching and grinding of your teeth. Often grinding will occur at night while you are asleep, whereas clenching will occur in the day time. This grinding and clenching disorder is called Bruxism. Over 50% of patients have some sort of bruxism problem, and around 20% of patients need to wear night guards to protect their teeth from destructive bruxism forces.
For adults there are several factors that can lead to bruxism, stress being the most common. Another factor that can lead to bruxism is if your bite is off, when you are asleep, your body will try to subconsciously grind in a new, more balanced bite. In reality, this is not possible, and all that happens is that these forces will either grind your teeth down or damage your jaw joint instead. Further, some medications can cause bruxism. Children can also have this problem, 20% of children grind at night. Children tend to brux for the same reasons as adults. However, for children, irritation from newly erupting teeth is another possible cause of bruxism. Children’s bruxism is not usually treated for two reasons. First of all, child bruxism does not usually damage baby teeth as much and secondly, eventually baby teeth will be lost anyways.
If you think that you grind your teeth, look for the following symptoms
- Wear on the smooth surfaces of the posterior teeth
- Wear and chipping on the biting edges of anterior teeth
- Broken fillings
- Jaw joint pain
- Cheek muscles being stiff and sore
The constant pressure and vibrations can even cause your gums to recede. Bruxism can cause severe tooth damage. In severe cases of bruxism, the grinding forces can kill teeth resulting in either the need of root canal treatment, or extraction.
Treating teeth grinding
Teeth normally do not touch unless you are chewing, swallowing or sometimes talking. The most common dental treatment is an appliance called a night guard. Only one night guard is needed, either an upper or lower one. We find lower ones are more successful. Night guards are designed to create a barrier between the teeth to protect from wear. Night guards create an increased opening position of the jaws, allowing for less muscle contraction so that the muscles can relax. They’re made of acrylic material and fit over the teeth.
Night guards typically can be soft or of a hard type. We have fabricated a type of night guard called a thermal night guard. Thermal night guard material reacts to the body’s own heat and provides a more comfortable snug fit. If the fit is poor, the night guard can come out at night. Only dental custom night guards are recommended. Store bought night guards with a one size fits all can have an improper fit and can cause damage. Of course, on an individual basis, it is very important for you to reduce your own stress. This includes having enough sleep at night, and reducing caffeine levels.