Teeth grinding during sleep may affect up to 10 % of people; more if the grinding is keeping our partner awake at night. It can be both a symptom of a problem and a problem in its own right. We might grind our teeth in times of stress and frustration, and if we are lucky this might resolve itself over time before we suffer any serious damage. Else, teeth grinding might be an ongoing problem. There are some suspicious signs of tooth grinding, such as a saw jaw in the morning, unexplained headaches or a complaining partner. But serious tooth grinding may occur without any of these symptoms appearing. If teeth show signs of unexplained wear it is quite possible that the individual is grinding their teeth at night. This damage can be quite serious. There is fairly good evidence to link grinding with stress and frustration, but this quickly gets complicated and is affected by many factors.
Some people suffer stress, yet show other symptoms rather than teeth grinding. Others grind their teeth during difficult phases of their life and stop grinding once the problem is resolved. It seems that the predisposition to teeth grinding is genetic. Everybody suffers stress from time to time; some people experience teeth grinding as a symptom of this, others do not. Early theories about grinding being caused by physical problems in the jaw look to be false, though grinding certainly can cause problems by wearing away teeth and causing sore gums. There appears to be no simple cure for teeth grinding. Resolving the cause of stress can help, but some individuals grind their teeth despite a lack of any apparent stress.
Instead, grinding treatment concentrates on preventing damage. Wearing a mouth guard will prevent the teeth from being worn away, which is a major concern. Unfortunately, tooth grinding can strain jaw muscles and severely compromise hearing. Mouthguards do very little to reduce this damage. Behavioural therapy, biofeedback and an improved diet have a limited benefits for jaw grinding.
The situation is very frustrating for patients as the habit is quite involuntary. Despite knowing about the issue the patient is unable to stop their nighttime behaviour. At least the fitting of a mouthguard will prevent most of the damage done to the mouth.
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