Three Tell Tale Signs That You Might Be Grinding Your Teeth
Stress may be causing us to grind our teeth and we don’t even realise it!
Brexit, elections, the weather … there seems to be no end to the number of situations that can cause our stress levels to rise.
When added to any personal stresses in our lives such as relationships or financial concerns, it probably isn’t surprising that some of us will start to exhibit visible symptoms of stress.
These symptoms will often depend upon each individual and can include comfort eating, depression and high blood pressure amongst other things. There is also one that we dentists often see, and that is bruxism, or the grinding of teeth.
As this habit often happens whilst we sleep, we may not even know that we are doing it; but during your regular six monthly check-ups at our Bedford dental clinic, we will look for three likely signs that you might be.
Worn and damaged teeth
The most obvious sign of bruxism, and one that you may have noticed yourself, is where the teeth have become worn down from grinding together. In more severe cases, this may also lead to fractures and even breakages. As the enamel on our teeth should remain healthy in order to protect the inner tooth, it probably won’t come as a surprise to know that when enamel has been damaged in this way, other dental problems such as decay and root canal infections become much more likely; the latter requiring endodontic treatment to restore the tooth.
Patients may also find that their teeth become more sensitive when eating or drinking hot and cold food or drinks where enamel damage has occurred. If you notice an increase in tooth sensitivity, whether this comes on gradually or suddenly, you should arrange for one of the team at The Dental Centre Bedford to examine your teeth to determine the cause.
Jaw pain and headaches
Another common symptom of bruxism is jaw pain, and in some cases, accompanying headaches. This is largely caused by tension in the muscles of the jaw causing pain and discomfort, with many patients also experiencing clicking or popping of the jaw when it is opened. This tension can also cause painful headaches which may only add to the levels of stress that the patient is already feeling.
Although best avoided of course, patients who have this problem can help to ease the symptoms by taking painkillers, eating softer foods that put less stress on the jaw muscles and gently massaging them as well. As stress levels ease, TMJ problems sometimes go away on their own.
This may be a new word for many of our Bedford patients. It is a symptom that, unlike sensitive teeth and a painful jaw, you may not be aware of but is one that dentists can spot when examining your mouth.
Tori, or mandibular tori to give it its full name, are small growths of bone that tend to grow on the tongue side of our gums where teeth grinding is present. They are harmless but do indicate that the patient may be grinding their teeth. If you run your tongue along the gum on the inside of your mouth, if you find any significant hard bumps, this could be the cause.
Many dentists believe that this happens because of the pressure that we apply to our teeth when we bite them hard together over a period of time, causing the bone to thicken to support the additional pressure. There may also be genetic links too.
Treatment is usually unnecessary unless the tori grow too large and start to interfere with the patient’s daily life.
Can bruxism be treated?
As bruxism is often stress related, the only ‘cure’ is to treat the cause of the stress either by addressing it or by finding ways to relax and helping to ease the symptoms.
From a dental viewpoint, protective mouthguards can be made which fit over the teeth when you sleep and which prevent the teeth from grinding together. This can help to stop not only damage to the teeth, but often jaw problems too.
We can also offer restorative work where teeth break or are damaged in other ways. Where the problem persists though, this may only be a temporary solution, and more extensive dental restoration work is likely to be more effective when the teeth grinding habit has been broken.
If your teeth have been damaged through teeth grinding, we may be able to help but only if we can examine your mouth so that the right treatment can be recommended. As you may not know if you are grinding your teeth, this is yet another reason to have your mouth checked regularly at The Dental Centre Bedford. If you would like to make a checkup appointment please call our team on 01234 819868.