Teeth grinding (bruxism) is becoming increasingly common in the UK as we lead ever more stressful lives. Ideally, we would all quit our jobs and retire to a lifestyle where we could use phrases like “Darling don’t be silly, you know I always winter in the Caribbean” and where the most difficult decision of the day would be whether to have the lobster steamed or grilled. Unfortunately, this may not be an option for the vast majority of us therefore here is a little guide as to what you can do to help reduce teeth grinding.
Be more aware of your jaw!
Grinding can cause your teeth to wear away which can be both damaging to the teeth as well as your overall facial aesthetics. Long-term, bruxism can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) which, essentially means issues with your jaw joint. This can be painful and difficult to treat. Approximately 80% of grinding occurs subconsciously at night time however, some people may grind or clench their teeth during the day. If you become aware of this during the day try to make a conscious effort to break the habit.
So what should you look out for? Common symptoms include: headaches (particularly in the morning), facial muscle pain, earache, tightness and stiffness in the shoulders, difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw joint, sleep disruption (both you and your partner). In the mouth, symptoms can include: tooth sensitivity, fractured teeth or fillings and atypical pain that seems to have no obvious cause.
If you become aware of any of the above symptoms, then book an appointment to discuss this with your dentist.
The most effective way to manage your grinding is to wear an occlusal splint or “mouthguard” at night time. There are many variations of occlusal splint that both look and work differently. Some aren’t mouthguards at all but actually specially made customised inserts for your ears! The best way to find out more is to ask your dentist which one is most suitable for you.
There is a close relationship between sleep apnoea and bruxism although the specific reasons as to why are not fully understood. If you suffer from sleep apnoea ask your dentist and/or GP whether bruxism is also an issue.
FRANKIE SAYS RELAX
One of the major causes of grinding is stress and anxiety. So, maybe it’s time to make a few changes in your life…Do you really need to stay at work for that extra-hour? Why not book that holiday you’ve been wanting to go on? Take up a new hobby…maybe Salsa? Try yoga or meditation? Ged rid of some of the friends in your life that do nothing but drain your energy? Whatever it is…the most effective way to reduce stress and anxiety is cut it off at the source.
One tequila, Two tequila, Three Tequila…JAW.
You may think you slept like a baby because you got home, collapsed on your bed fully clothed and woke up 19 hours later… but, drinking before bed can reduce the quality of your sleep and make you more likely to grind, even if it’s just a small amount!
I’m not addicted, I’m committed!
Similarly, smoking can also increase your risk of bruxism. So in case you didn’t have enough reasons to give up…here it is! Recreational drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA result in significant grinding the affects of which can accumulate over time causing significant damage to your teeth.
Coffee…JUST SAY NO!
Coffee can be an absolute lifesaver on a cold, grey, London morning. Caffeine however, lasts in the system for a lot longer than one may think. And while it may help to perk you up in the morning, it will also hinder your chances at a good night’s sleep. Although you think it’s not affecting you as you are able to fall asleep just fine, caffeine can affect the quality of your sleep making you more likely to grind your teeth at night and wake up feeling groggy – at which point you’ll most likely reach for the Cafetiere! With the average daily routine, it’s best to stay away from caffeinated bevarages after 2-3pm.
Virgin Active is a gym, not a cocktail!
Your gym membership is still burning a hole in your pocket, you haven’t been for 3 months and the last time you went you bumped into your friend on the way there and went to dinner instead. Well I’m sad to say that here is another reason you should be exercising on a more regular basis. The release of endorphins helps to reduce stress and improve your night’s sleep.
Not what your thinking – sadly. One way to help relax before bed is create a relaxing environment. Tidy up the clutter (including your partner, if relevant), get some nice scents, only wear loose clothing and invest in a comfortable bed and soft sheets (Egyptian cotton with a thread count over 250 – preferable but not essential). Remember, you spend a third of your life in bed so if there has ever been a good return of investment – the bed is it! And finally to finish things off, a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow, some deep breaths into your diaphragm and calming music and you’ll be well on your way to a great night’s sleep!