Bruxism is the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth at times when your mouth is not involved in normal chewing. It may be found in both adults and children and may occur at any time during the day or night. Very often you will not be aware that you are doing it and (like snoring) it is the partner or parent who may be the one who first notices the problem.
The causes of this behaviour are not fully understood, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that stressful events or poor bite geometry may trigger the habit.
The symptoms of bruxism may include:
- Pain in the teeth, jaws or neck
- Worn, chipped or cracked teeth
- Loose teeth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Earache or headaches
If you have any concerns about the symptoms that you or your child may be showing, it is important to discuss them with your dentist. Where it has been stress-related, bruxism may disappear without treatment when the situation eases, but otherwise it is advisable to seek further investigation. There are a number of other treatment options available to reduce the impact or eliminate the habit. Your dentist may be able to make small but significant alterations to your bite and/or recommend a “bite protector” or splint which is similar to a mouthguard but will separate the upper and lower teeth during the night and help prevent continued damage. Further treatment may be necessary to repair the existing damage and other techniques may be used depending on the nature of the condition and its probable cause.