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Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a condition where you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. It can be mildly annoying, or severe.

Bruxism may need attention before permanent damage occurs. If you unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake, it’s known as, awake bruxism. If you clench or grind your teeth while you're asleep, this is known as sleep bruxism. Mild bruxism may not require treatment. But if you clench or grind your teeth for long, continuous periods, this can become serious and cause damage. Prolonged bruxism can cause tooth wear and breakage, and lead to disorders of the jaw and headaches.

Symptoms of teeth grinding

If your condition is mild, you may not be aware that you are grinding your teeth. It might be that a friend or family member notices it first. Or perhaps symptoms of bruxism are noticed by your dentist, during a routine appointment. Some signs and symptoms that you may have bruxism include:

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth, either awake or asleep
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Flattened teeth or worn teeth and enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitive teeth
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Pain or soreness in your jaw, neck, face or ears
  • Headaches
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Disrupted sleep

Causes of teeth grinding

There are a number of reasons bruxism can occur. It's sometimes caused by excess stress or anxiety. Heightened emotions such as anger, frustration or tension can also trigger it. Teeth grinding may also develop as a coping strategy during periods of concentration. If you have sleep bruxism, it is more likely to be caused by an abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crooked teeth. Or it might be due to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea. There are some risk factors that may increase your chance of developing bruxism. These include:

  • Increased stress, anxiety or frustration
  • Age - bruxism is common in young children and generally lessens by adulthood
  • Personality type - being aggressive, competitive or hyperactive may increase your risk
  • Medications - it may be an uncommon side effect of some medications including some antidepressants
  • Family history - sleep bruxism often occurs in families
  • Other disorders - bruxism can be associated with some mental health and medical disorders including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, and sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnoea

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Related treatments

Your dentist will examine your mouth carefully to diagnose the cause of your pain or condition. You may need one of these common treatments.

Get prepared

When you book at one of our dental practices for a check-up or treatment, you want to get to the bottom of it quickly. That’s understandable. It’s useful to think ahead about what your dentist will need to know to diagnose and treat you.

Generally your dentist will ask you about your medical history and then thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, gums, jaw, tongue, throat, sinuses, ears, nose and neck. You may also need an x-ray, depending on what your dentist suspects might be the cause of your problem.

Your dentist will ask you some questions about your teeth and any pain you may have, such as:

  • Are you experiencing any pain?
  • How severe is the pain?
  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • What is your normal dental routine?
  • What is your diet like?
  • What is your lifestyle like?
  • Are you experiencing any extra stress?
  • Do you suffer from anxiety?

Think about your answers to these questions before your appointment. Being prepared can speed up the diagnosis.

Have questions?

The price of assessing and treating your bruxism depends on what issues you may have and what is causing the problem. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can be a symptom of something serious, so we recommend that you see a dentist to check it out. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the cause and advise you about the cost of treatment. When you book online simply select an appointment for teeth grinding.

Also known as bruxism, teeth clenching or grinding affects many people. Teeth grinding in young children is common. It often happens at night when new teeth are growing. This type of bruxism generally goes away by adulthood. While bruxism is less common for adults, rest assured that you are not alone and there are ways to manage the condition. Talk to your dentist about what’s happening for you.

Clenching or grinding your teeth, or bruxism, can be caused by a number of factors. It may be from lifestyle or behaviour, such as stress, anxiety, heightened emotions or prolonged periods of concentration. It may be due to family history. It can also be a side effect from certain medications or substances. Bruxism can also develop if you have oral conditions such as an abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crooked teeth.

It depends on the cause of your problem. If your bruxism is stress-related, you dentist may recommend professional counselling, psychotherapy or other strategies to help you relax. You may receive a prescription muscle-relaxant to ease a jaw spasm. Or you may be fitted for a custom-made bite plate. In some cases, your dentist may refer you to your GP, or even an oral surgeon.

If you've developed teeth grinding, or bruxism, due to problems with your teeth, your dentist may recommend that you correct your tooth alignment. Your dentist may want to discuss treatment to reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth. They may also suggest a custom-made mouthguard to prevent further damage to your teeth and to promote better alignment.

We get it. We’re New Zealand’s largest group of dentists so we’ve seen more scared patients than any other dental practice in the country. For most people who are scared about visiting the dentist it’s because they’ve had a bad experience in the past. Relax. Our gentle and compassionate dentists understand how you feel. Whether you’re anxious or worried about experiencing more pain or the potential cost of the treatment, the best thing to do is to let us know how you feel. Making sure you feel comfortable is part of our job.

Managing your teeth clenching or grinding can be done through changes to your lifestyle. Stress management, mindfulness and better sleep routines may help improve mild cases of bruxism. If your bruxism is due to a condition in your mouth or teeth, we recommend you visit your dentist. Keep on top of your oral health by combining good at-home dental care with a great relationship with your dentist.

We recommend daily healthy habits and regular visits to the dentist. For optimum oral health:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits at home including brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day
  • Book hygiene visits with an oral hygienist or oral health therapist twice each year
  • Book routine exam and x-rays visits with your dentist once each year

The Lumino Dental Plan is a cost-effective way to ensure your oral health is given the priority it deserves. It’s an affordable ongoing subscription plan that keeps you on top of your oral health. We know that when you look after your oral health properly with regular preventative care, you’ll be less likely to need to see a dentist in an emergency. You’re also likely to spend less money at the dentist over time.

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