What causes tooth grinding?
Grinding during sleep is believed to be somehow related to minor sleep disturbances but the underlying cause is still unknown. It may be associated with stress but the exact link with stress is still uncertain. It may also run in families or be associated with sleep apnoea or acid reflux but again the role of these factors is unclear.
How would I know if I grind my teeth?
The most reliable way is if somebody has seen or heard you do it frequently. You may also experience some jaw pain or stiffness or a headache in the morning when you wake up. The jaw pain can sometimes feel like a toothache on a back tooth. You might also start to notice your teeth wearing or getting shorter or see cracks starting to show. Tooth grinding can cause a lot of damage if not managed early so its important to go see a dentist if you think you grind your teeth at night.
Dr. Padraig McAuliffe, the prosthodontist in Riverpoint, has lectured extensively on toot grinding and his research on it has won international awards and featured on the six one news. He is currently leading an international team of experts in research into the use of technology to improve the diagnosis and management of tooth grinding.
What can be done about it?
At the moment there is no cure so the most common treatment is to have a mouthguard also called an occlusal splint. This doesn’t stop the grinding but protects the teeth against the effects of grinding and helps relieve any jaw ache or headache.
Can I just get a cheap sports mouthguard or buy one online?
Cheap “boil and bite” style mouthguards are made from soft materials that have been found to make grinding worse in 6/10 people and so are not recommended. They don’t last very long and are not as comfortable to wear as a custom splint that a dentist makes for you.
If I grind my teeth will I damage my fillings or crowns?
Most types of restoration are known to have reduced lifespan in patients with tooth grinding. For that reason its very important to use a splint if you are given one by your dentist. Its also an important reason to be diagnosed early.