In times of stress or worry individuals may find they start clenching their teeth and jaws, or grinding their teeth as they sleep. This is a condition known as ‘bruxism’. As a result, teeth may feel sore for no obvious reason and can crack or wear under such pressure. This is a concern as not only may you feel muscle tension or headaches, your teeth can chip or wear.
As you have only one set of teeth to last a lifetime, you want to ensure you are preserving the strength and structure of your teeth.
Regular appointments with your dental practitioner allow them to highlight to you any worn areas of tooth enamel, flat or chipped teeth they suspect may be from clenching or grinding.
As these areas can start minimally, it is not always obvious to an untrained eye. However more obvious symptoms may be headaches around the temple region, jaw pain or muscle tightness. A partner can often hear the sound of grinding and may give you some feedback.
If you do feel you may be clenching or grinding, the good news is there are options to help with this condition. During the day, start by training your tongue to sit at the roof of your mouth; it helps to relax the chewing muscles and keep teeth apart. Self-massage your cheeks and your temples, roll your shoulders backwards and gently stretch out the jaw throughout the day. Lifestyle and dietary factors can also play a role. Exercise regularly, limit caffeine and consider a softer diet in times of flare ups.
During the night an occlusal splint (night guard) can be worn to help protect your teeth. If this is a recommendation for you, some simple impressions will be taken of your teeth. A dental laboratory will then create a slim acrylic guard personalised for you. This will now help to prevent your teeth from any destructive forces from bruxism. Your dental professional will guide you on how to wear the splint and give you instructions on how to keep it clean.