Whilst the habit of grinding your teeth is often linked to anxiety or stress, the sufferer isn’t necessarily aware of this because it usually takes place during sleep. Therefore, when the often connected symptoms of facial pain and headaches occur, you won’t be able to relate this to teeth grinding. Your first port of call may therefore be your GP rather than your dentist.
Other symptoms are:
- pain and stiffness in the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) and surrounding muscles
- disrupted sleep (for you or your partner)
- worn-down teeth, which can lead to increased sensitivity and even tooth loss
- broken teeth or fillings
Whilst severe tooth damage is unlikely, it is well worth making an appointment to see your dentist if:
- your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive
- your jaw, face or ear is painful
- your partner says you make a grinding sound in your sleep
Because your dentist will be able to detect the signs of grinding. Your dentist will also confirm whether you need any treatment, especially if the habit looks like causing further problems – for example an abscess or an infection.
If grinding is stress-related, your dental surgery will also be able to recommend ways in which you can relieve this.
A mouth guard or mouth splint to reduce wear and pain and avoid further damage
CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy)
Sleep disorders which may cause bruxism:
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Talking or mumbling in your sleep
Kicking out or punching during sleep
A temporary inability to move or speak on waking or as you fall asleep
Note that if a child is grinding their teeth, it’s important that they see a dentist to make sure no damage is being done.