Headaches Are A Classic Sign
One of the main problems with bruxism (aka teeth grinding) is that most people don’t realise they’re doing it, especially as it tends to happen during the night. However, Dr Rhona Eskander, owner and founder of The Chelsea Dental Clinic, says waking up with a headache or aching teeth could be a warning sign. “Teeth grinding happens involuntarily, most often during the night. The most common symptoms include headaches and jaw pain; aching teeth, especially on waking; stiffness in the jaw just after waking or aching while chewing, particularly during breakfast; temperature sensitive teeth; tooth indentations on the tongue; raised tissue on the inside of the cheek caused by biting; and cracked or chipped tooth enamel.”
Stress Plays A Part
Experts agree stress is the most common trigger for teeth grinding, and cosmetic dentist Dr Kamila Azimova says it’s for this reason cases are soaring. “I have seen considerably more patients in the last few months for treatment,” she told SL. “And it’s becoming surprisingly common since the start of the pandemic. One recent study found the prevalence of jaw clenching and bruxism increased to 47% from its pre-pandemic level of 35%. Jaw clenching in the daytime has also doubled. The most common clenching symptoms people come to me with are hypersensitive teeth, headaches, tooth wear and damage to dental restorations.” Rhona adds that anger and frustration are common triggers for sleep bruxism, while awake bruxism is often a coping strategy or habit many of us have picked up when we are in deep concentration. “Having a personality type that’s aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can also increase your risk of bruxism,” she explains.
A Dentist Should Be Your First Port Of Call
Your dentist should be the first person you see if you notice any of the signs of bruxism, such as having worn, damaged or sensitive teeth, or if you have a partner who says they’ve noticed you making grinding sounds at night. “If you think you grind your teeth, speak with your dentist or an oral health professional,” Rhona advises. “They will look at your teeth and assess the situation. It could be that you’re actually suffering from tooth erosion related to other causes, but it’s vital to get a professional opinion either way.”
It’s Important to Nip It In The Bud
Other than causing yourself prolonged pain, you may also end up with a hefty dentist bill. Exposure of the inner parts of your teeth could involve painful root canal treatments and, at an extreme level, bruxism can lead to tooth loss. “The most common problems associated with teeth grinding include cracked tooth enamel and broken fillings, but if left unresolved for a long time, tooth loss is possible, albeit rare,” says Rhona. “It can also lead to problems with the joints just in front of your ears, which can sound like clicking when you open and close your mouth. Your dentist may suggest taking a muscle relaxant before bedtime, which can be a temporary solution, or they may make you a night guard to wear while you sleep. Mouth guards can keep the teeth separate to avoid grinding and provide instant results.”
Stress Management Could Help
Experts agree that stress management plays a crucial part in treating teeth grinding. “If you want to get to the bottom of your teeth grinding, treat it a little like having a food intolerance and trying an elimination diet,” advises Rhona. “Try one stress reduction technique at a time and see what works – cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, good sleep hygiene and regular exercise are all worth trying. Try a variety of these and see if your symptoms resolve. However, remember the problem could also be dental so always check that route, too and pop to see your dentist if you are worried about an oral problem.”
It Could Also Be Worth Trying Botox
“If the notion of wearing something in your mouth all night doesn’t appeal, Botox is an effective alternative,” says Rhona. “When injected into facial muscles afflicted with soreness and discomfort, Botox relieves tension. It can eliminate headaches resulting from teeth grinding and in cases of severe stress can minimise lock jaw. And since it’s a non-surgical procedure, the risks and possible complications are infrequent, minimal and temporary.” If Botox is something you’re looking to explore, know that the effects will take a couple of weeks to take effect, and it will need topping up every six to 12 months. Depending on the severity of your teeth grinding, however, you may need to start by having it every three months for a year, adds Dr Krystyna Wilczynski, cosmetic dentist and facial aesthetician. “This allows the muscles to relax over time, meaning it ultimately won’t be needed as often,” she says. “It also has a slimming effect on the face as it shrinks the masseter muscle, one the main muscles in your jaw.”
Finally, Learn How To Relieve Tension
If you are waking up in pain or find yourself clenching your jaw at your desk throughout the day, Krystyna says it can help to place your fingers on the top of your front four bottom teeth, slowly pulling down until you feel slight discomfort on the tight side of your jaw. “Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly release your jaw back to the starting position,” she advises. “You can also train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth, especially if you are prone to doing it during the day. If you notice yourself doing it, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth, which trains your jaw muscles to relax.”
For more information visit ChelseaDentalClinic.co.uk, DrKamila.co.uk and DrKrystyna.com.
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