Ever wondered about what the long-term effects of chronic bruxism (teeth grinding) could be on the shape of your face?
People who suffer from chronic bruxism often don’t realise that, if the grinding is severe over a prolonged period, the shape of the grinder’s face may change gradually over time to become more square. This is as a result of the regular exercise of the jaw muscles.
However, unless your partner complains about the grating noise, or your dentist comments on damage to your teeth, you may never realise you have the condition. Symptoms include hypersensitive teeth, aching jaw muscles, headaches, tooth wear and tear, or damage to dental work. If you suspect that you grind your teeth in your sleep, a visit to dentist will answer the question for you.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the repetitive jaw-muscle activity of clenching or grinding the teeth. It can occur during sleep (nocturnal or sleep bruxism) or when awake (awake bruxism). Up to 31% of people may have the condition.
Teeth grinding could be caused by physiological factors, where the upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly, causing the lower teeth to push upward or forward to reach the upper teeth, for example.
Growing evidence exists that it could also be caused by stress and anxiety. It appears that children with sleep bruxism suffer higher levels of anxiety than those without. And people who are overly aggressive, competitive, and hyperactive seem to be more prone to be sufferers. Needless to say, in times of increased stress, say during exams, bereavement, marriage, divorce, or moving home, the condition intensifies. Genetics also play a role.
Between 21% and 50% of those with sleep bruxism have inherited the condition from one or both parents.
Beyond fixing dental damage already caused by bruxism, little treatment is available to those who grind their teeth. Opinion is divided about how effective dental guards are in preventing grinding. Some experts believe it could do more harm than good.
If you are diagnosed with stress-related bruxism, your medical practitioner may recommend relaxation techniques, stress management, cognitive behavioural therapy, and even hypnosis. Your doctor may also inject botox into your jaw muscles to relax them.
Where your partner’s teeth grinding is keeping you awake at night, you may just have to resort to a set of earplugs.
Tips to ease up the grinding
• Try to make a genuine effort to relax before going to bed, reduce your stress levels and stick to a regular bedtime routine.
• Make sure your bedroom is cool (about 18 degrees), comfortable, dark and quiet.
• Remove your electronic devices and TV from the bedroom.
• Sleep in a different position. If you usually sleep on your back, turn onto your side.
By Linda Cilliers