Teeth grinding is the lateral movement of the jaw whilst the top and bottom teeth are in contact, rubbing the teeth together. It is often done in the form of a chewing action, but with no food in the mouth to chew on. In most cases teeth grinding is done during sleep, for this reason most teeth grinders are unaware of their habit. The medical condition of grinding your teeth is known as bruxism.
Teeth grinding has the potential to wear away the enamel from your teeth, eventually leading to exposed dentine (which is softer than enamel) after which the rest of the tooth will be ground away even faster. You may also wake up in the morning with a stiff jaw or tenderness when you bite together.
A soft diet and physiotherapy exercises can often help. In some situations hypnotherapy can help reduce or stop you grinding your teeth but in most cases the best that can be done is to control the condition by protecting the teeth by wearing a night-guard. Some drugs can help in certain cases, but this is usually only temporary.
There are a few different types of guard that can be worn at nightime to `ease` the pressure on the joint capsule. Sometime we make a `soft` guard (usually to wear over the lower teeth) and this can be constructed for those patients who need immediate relief of jaw pain. I do not like my patients wearing a soft guard for the long term because it can eventually have a negative effect- causing the patient to bite into the guard and hence increasing the load on the jaw joint.
A more long term solution is to construct a hard acrylic `splint` that is usually worn over the upper teeth. This is accurately made to fit over the teeth surfaces to conform to the patient’s bite and will reduce the loading effect on the jaw joint. This in turn will help to alleviate the symptoms of jaw pain and headaches and in some instances may even help with neck and back pain.
Dr. Simon Assor BChD MSc