Teeth Grinding and Clenching

It is believed approximately 10% of adults grind their teeth during sleep (also known as bruxism).

Teeth grinding can lead to many issues, not only in the mouth but also in your neck and back.

Many people do not realise that they are grinding their teeth, nor do they really have any control over it. It is like dreaming!

Why Do We Grind Our Teeth?

There are many thoughts on why certain people grind (or clench) their teeth. These include:

  • Emotional stress. There is a strong association between stress and teeth grinding. Some of these emotions may be fear, anger or depression.
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea. This is where there is a temporary obstruction to the airway during sleep. Grinding of the teeth becomes a reflex action to help open the airway.
  • Bite imbalances, such as teeth that are missing or crooked. 
  • Gut toxins, particularly from parasites may also cause grinding. Certain proteins secreted from the parasite during its various stages of life can have toxic effects. This is often a reason why children grind their teeth. Such symptoms include nervousness, insomnia, and teeth grinding.
  • Nutritional imbalances such as calcium and magnesium deficiencies.
  • Allergies.
  • Hormonal disturbances.
  • Side effects of certain medications such as antidepressants.

Signs that you may be grinding include:

  • Tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ) pain. This is the jaw joint which is responsible for opening and closing of the mouth.
  • Neck and/or shoulder tenderness.
  • Aching or sensitive teeth, particularly to cold.
  • Cracked or worn down teeth.
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding and/or swollen gums

Management of Grinding

Your dentist may fit you with a custom made splint or mouth-guard which can help protect the teeth and support the TMJ. In more severe cases, you may be referred to a TMJ specialist. We will also assess you for sleep disorders and may refer you to a sleep specialist for further investigation.

Having your dentist fit a custom made grinding splint to wear over the teeth at night can go a long way in protecting your teeth!

It is also important to address the underlying causes of teeth grinding. Some tips to help you stop grinding or clenching your teeth are:

  • Having a healthy sleep routine. This means ideally getting to sleep by 10pm and waking up before the sun rises.
  • Undergo a sleep study if a sleep disorder is suspected.
  • Process your emotions on a daily basis.
  • Seek professional counselling, try meditation and other relaxation techniques.
  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as coffee and chocolate in the evenings.
  •  Avoid chewing gum as it leads to your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
  • See a chiropractor if you are experiencing neck and/or back issues as a result of grinding.