Monday July 21 2014

Why you may be grinding your teeth

teeth grinding

Although teeth grinding happens mostly during sleep, some people experience it when they are awake. Photo by Racheal Ajwang. 

By Richard Kabanda

Many people grind and clench their teeth from time to time, a situation medically called bruxism. When it happens occasionally, it does not cause damage. However, if a person grinds their teeth frequently, this could lead to damage or other oral-related health problems.

But how can you tell you have a teeth-grinding problem?
Because grinding occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they could be doing it.
It is only when you wake up with a headache or painful jaw that you realise that you had actually been grinding your teeth while asleep.
In some cases, you may be informed by people close to you about it.

While there are several myths out there about why people grind their teeth, several factors contribute to the problem, including stress and anxiety, or having crooked teeth.

Is tooth grinding harmful?
When people grind their teeth frequently, it may result in a fracture, teeth sensitivity, especially when the outer layer of the teeth called enamel is worn out, or tooth loss.
It can also cause pain in the jaws, leading to a condition known as temporomandibular joint or even change the appearance of your face.

Remedy for the problem
If you notice that you grind your teeth frequently, speak to your dentist who can recommend the use of a mouthguard, a protective device that covers the teeth and gums while you sleep.
You can also reduce your risk by managing stress, since this is one of the key predisposing factors for teeth grinding.
•Avoid the use of alcohol, as grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
•Do not chew pencils, pens or anything that is not food.
•Avoid getting addicted to chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
•Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
•Always seek medical care if you find yourself grinding your teeth frequently. The dentist will examine you for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

The writer is a dentist