An issue that affects over 50% of the population, bruxism (the clenching and grinding of teeth) can lead to a number of side effects for the sufferer, which can be both painful and persistent.
Possible symptoms of bruxism include:
- headaches & migraines on waking
- stiff neck and jaw
- poor sleep quality
- damage to teeth
With the exception of tooth wear, there is nothing about the above list of symptoms that implies clenching or grinding of teeth could be the cause. Sadly, this is often the reason that bruxism remains one of the most overlooked and undiagnosed conditions in the UK, meaning that sufferers continue to experience discomfort.
A general lack of awareness of the condition means that it is common for those exhibiting the symptoms to consult their GP for advice, which typically leads to ineffective treatments that do not stop the pain from occurring. Thankfully, once correctly diagnosed, there are various treatment options available.
The cause of bruxism
Why bruxism occurs is not always clear, though there are a number of contributing factors that could suggest why you may be clenching or grinding your teeth:
- Stress - it has been found that nearly 70% of bruxism occurs as a result of stress and anxiety. These conditions, whether job or lifestyle related, can often lead to disrupted sleep patterns and restlessness.
- Lifestyle - substances such as tobacco, caffeine and alcohol have all been linked as co-factors of bruxism. As they are known to affect sleep, bruxism is significantly higher for individuals who use these psychoactive substances.
- Sleep disorders - snorers, obstructive sleep apnoea, or sleep paralysis sufferers are all more likely to suffer from bruxism. Of these, OSA seems to be the larger cause, as the snorting and gasping result in mouth movements and impact on the teeth.
Once identified as a bruxer, your dentist will likely suggest an occlusal splint for treatment. The most common form of treatment for bruxism, an occlusal splint is a device that slots on either your upper or lower teeth and prevents the two arches from contacting each other. This in turn inhibits the ability to clench, preventing grinding from occuring and the symptoms from persisting.
There are a number of occlusal splints available, one of which is the SCi (Sleep Clench Inhibitor). FDA-approved for the treatment TMJ & medically-diagnosed migraines, the SCi is available from a number of dentists throughout the UK. Alternative methods of treatment also include 'sleep-hygiene', cognitive behavioural therapy, muscle-relaxation, and even botox.
I think I'm a bruxer - where should I go?
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms above and suspect that bruxism may be the cause – book a consultation with your dentist. They should be able to determine, from the shape of your teeth alone, whether you are a habitual bruxer. They may also feel around your jaw area and lower neck for tenderness.
As it is a private treatment option, it may be that your current dentist does not supply this treatment. If this is the case, there is an easy way to locate a dentist who does. Our Find a Provider search function allows you simply enter your postcode to discover SCi providers in your area. To find your nearest SCi provider and to book a consultation, click here.