Teeth and stress
It’s safe to say that the past two years have been stressful. And it seems that we have been taking this out on our teeth. Dentists have been noticing an increase in teeth grinding over the past few years. The good news is that there are treatments available to help.
Teeth grinding/clenching, or Bruxism as it’s officially known, is one of those tricky conditions that you could be suffering from without even knowing it. Because it is an involuntary action, which usually happens at night, it doesn’t always display its symptoms in ways that are immediately noticeable.
Most people aren’t even aware they are grinding their teeth. It isn’t until their partners notices the sounds of grinding while you are asleep that they become aware. Another way of diagnosing the condition is when the symptoms have become severe and you experience jaw pain, headaches and worn down, sensitive teeth start to emerge.
Symptoms of tooth grinding
It can be hard to diagnose this condition. Mainly because it happens while you’re asleep. But also because you may have some symptoms when you first wake up that quickly disappear.
So what should you be looking out for?
- Fractured, chipped or loose teeth
- A dull headache, sore jaws and/or ear pain
- Aching teeth, and stiffness in the face and temples, particularly after you’ve just woken up
- Sore jaws while you’re eating, especially at breakfast time
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks
- Intense jaw clenching
Even if you’re not sure that teeth grinding is responsible for the symptoms you’re experiencing, tell your dentist. As soon as you suspect something is wrong it’s important to get it check out. This means the dentist can perform a diagnosis and devise possible treatment options.
Questions to ask yourself
Why do I always wake up with a headache? But one that disappears after half an hour.
My neck muscles are killing me!
Why are my teeth suddenly cracking or chipping?
When I eat, my jaw is sore, what is causing that?
Problems caused by tooth grinding
All those niggling, sometime painful symptoms may be pointers to even worse damage being done. Teeth grinding places a lot of pressure on your teeth, cracking their protective enamel, fracturing them and breaking things like crowns and fillings. It also places great stress on your jaws joints and muscles.
You might also find your teeth are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations. They can also be painful to bite down on as the fibre that attaches them to the bone gets inflamed.
Causes and treatments
The range of likely causes of bruxism are physical and psychological meaning that any treatment will often need to address both these things. Your dentist, of course, will take care of the possible physical causes such as overly-high fillings, or missing or crooked teeth, and may fit with a mouth guard if you grind your teeth at night.
But if the source of your teeth grinding is emotional, or caused by illness, poor nutrition or long term pain, it’s important to deal with these issues as well as of seeing your dentist. Your GP is a fantastic place to start. Alternatively, organisations such as Lifeline (131 114), Beyond Blue (1300 224 636), Domestic Violence Crisis Service (6280 0900) are always there to listen.