Teeth clenching or grinding

Readers who have been watching cricket this year could be struggling with jaw discomfort from gritting their teeth. We see many patients who are not aware that they are grinding or clenching (bruxing) their teeth.

The signs to look out for are very simple:

1. Discomfort and/or stiffness in jaw muscles when waking up.

2. Teeth that are sensitive while eating especially after having something sour such as wine or juice.

3. Headaches.

4. Tooth fractures.

Discomfort is typically worse when waking up and improves as the day progresses. There are two types of bruxism, sleep bruxism or awake clenching. The causes of why we grind are commonly a combination of many different factors: stress, having an interference on your biting surface, jaw joint issues and also habit. Early detection of bruxism or grinding is very important, as the damage incurred may have a detrimental effect on quality of life. Because, the cause of grinding and clenching is so complex, the treatment modality needs to cover a wide variety of interventions.

Treatment would include stress reduction techniques such as meditation and relaxation (thinking of things which you find relaxing).

In some cases it could be necessary to talk to a professional to receive some helpful advice on how to deal with short and long term stress. The next treatment would be breaking the cycle of grinding by getting an occlusal splint which will protect further damage to your teeth and the jaw joint (TMJ).

Splints may also reduce the muscle strain by allowing a sliding motion without interference. This could be combined with seeing a physiotherapist to treat the stiffness in the muscles. Some chiropractors also specialise in jaw or joint manipulation. Getting used to a splint can be challenging, but it has important long term benefits for those willing to endure.

Just like many other dental issues, prevention is better than a cure!

We hope things will go better for Australians in the third test!

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