Teeth Clenching and Grinding – what is it, why is it happening, and what can I do about it?

Dr. Rick Iskandar

I’m sure you don’t need reminding – it’s been a stressful couple of years. We’ve all had to get used to living under the shadow of uncertainty the pandemic has cast over us, having to adapt to constantly changing rules and regulations, unable to engage in many of the activities that used to relax us and motivate us has made life more challenging, to say the least, and has got us into (or further into) some damaging habits.

Bruxism, or clenching and grinding of the teeth, is a disease that is not all that well understood. We think that it’s one of the ways our body tells us that it is stressed out and needs a change.

But what if we can’t make a change or don’t know what to change?

There is no compelling and definitive reason why we clench and grind our teeth with strong scientific evidence. Still, the leading theory is that you’ve accumulated excessive psychological stress and are engaged in a lifestyle that’s not letting you relax properly.

Some leading causes of a stress-inducing lifestyle may be:

  1. Too much screen time;
  2. Poor diet;
  3. Poor sleep;
  4. Insufficient exercise;
  5. Excessive workload with insufficient boundaries between work and home;
  6. Environmental stress;
  7. Family/social stress.

A common symptom of uncontrolled stress is that muscles used for facial expressions and chewing don’t work how they’re supposed to; this can cause severe symptoms such as:

  1. Muscle cramping;
  2. Dysfunction of the jaw joint, including jaw lock
  3. Headaches
  4. Muscle pain
  5. Tooth pain
  6. Tooth cracking or breakage
  7. Tinnitus

Because the symptoms can become quite severe and debilitating, it’s essential to break this disease process before permanent damage and pain.

Effective lifestyle changes may include:

  1. Improving your sleep hygiene and habits
  2. Getting some exercise
  3. Improving your nutrition
  4. Change the way that you interact with your screens on your phone, computer and tv
  5. Engaging in daily self-care habits

In some cases, conservative lifestyle changes are insufficient to give symptomatic relief to patients suffering from bruxism and treatment is required. These treatments may include:

  1. Massages by a physiotherapist trained in TMD
  2. Muscle relaxant injections, which usually provide 3-4 months of relief
  3. A bite splint to correctly position the jaw and protect the teeth.

Whatever your situation is, the take-home message is worth getting a solution before severe damage occurs. If you feel you need better dental advice, help with bruxism, or get back on track with your dental health, come and see the team at Tailored Teeth and get back to smiling.


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