Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) usually occurs at night and can cause the teeth to become worn or loosened.

Teeth grinding is a complex disorder that is not properly understood despite extensive research. About half of all adults will grind their teeth at some point; while 20 per cent of adults and children will have a significant problem with teeth grinding.

A person who grinds or clenches their teeth in their sleep bites down harder than is physically possible during the day. This places a great deal of stress on teeth and facial bones, as they can't cope with such pressure. Prolonged episodes of teeth grinding can lead to chronic earache, neck and jaw pain as well as dental abnormalities.

CAUSE
• Poor occlusion (teeth not lined up correctly)
• Abnormalities of the bone structure of the jaw and face
• Anxiety, stress and psychological disorders
• Sleep disorders
• Chemical imbalances
• Disorders of nerve transmission from the central nervous system
• Smoking
• Some anti-depressant medications.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
• Tooth wear (fillings, cracks or chips) especially on the front teeth.
• Grinding noise noticed by family during the night
• Pain or fatigue in facial muscles, jaw or ear
• Locking or clicking of the jaw
• Aching teeth, especially upon waking
• Headaches and/or ear pain
• Loose teeth (excluding baby teeth in children)
• Teeth sensitive to cold or heat
• Teeth marks on the tongue
• Raised tissue on the inside of the cheek caused from teeth grinding.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
Teeth grinding is managed through consultation with your Doctor and Dentist.
• In children, most cases will disappear without treatment. See your doctor if teeth grinding doesn't stop in a few months or if side effects such as locked jaw or hearing loss occur.
• Counselling can help address anxiety or stress-related problems.

DIET HINTS
Note: The following diet hints can help strengthen teeth, but the underlying cause of teeth grinding must still be treated.
• Adults should avoid alcohol, as it can worsen the problem.
• Avoid large amounts of acidic foods, which can contribute to erosion of the tooth enamel. Foods to avoid include soft drinks, full strength fruit juice and vinegar.
• Calcium is important for tooth formation. Children should have a diet rich in milk, cheese, dairy products, green leafy vegetables and fish with edible bones such as sardines.
• Vitamin D is needed to improve the uptake of calcium and strengthen teeth. Sources include fish oils, egg yolks, seeds and fortified milk. Exposure to sunlight is necessary for vitamin D to be activated in the skin.
• Vitamin C prevents gum disease. It should be obtained from the diet, as supplements can cause erosion to tooth enamel. Sources include citrus fruit, berries, capsicum and green vegetables. If citrus fruit is eaten, it should be followed by a glass of milk or water to reduce acidity in the mouth.
• Do not allow infants to go to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice in place, as this can cause cavities. Give them water only.

PREVENTION
• A mouth guard may be able to help protect teeth during the night.
• Regular dental check-ups are needed to treat damaged teeth and check the alignment of the bite.
• Massage and stretching exercises may be recommended for pain relief. Ask your dentist for advice.
• Fluoride drops may help strengthen children’s' teeth, in areas where the water supply is not supplemented. Ask your dentist or local health authority if fluoride drops would be suitable for your child.

SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
• Magnesium aids nerve and muscle function and also has a history of traditional use in helping to relieve teeth grinding.
• Calcium and vitamin D are important for tooth formation and strengthening the enamel.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice. Some medications can cause Teeth Grinding. Your Pharmacist can tell you if any medication you are taking may be contributing to Teeth Grinding.