Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is one of the common dental problems. Many people are likely to be unaware of their habit of teeth grinding, until their dentist informs them about tell-tale signs of it during their routine dental visits.
Many of our patients have problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders and sleep issues, and teeth grinding is commonly associated with all these problems
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and teeth grinding
Our throat muscles relax during deep sleep and usually, this doesn’t interfere with our routine breathing. However, if the throat muscles relax completely and the upper airway is blocked, breathing may be affected, leading to OSA. A sleep study is used to confirm the diagnosis of OSA and its management depends on the severity of the condition.
People with OSA can experience short periods of reduced or interrupted breathing while sleeping. Their partners may complain about their loud breathing and snoring.
Sometimes, the body’s response is to clench the teeth as a protective reflex mechanism. The muscles could then become tense and the airway may open to enable breathing. However, if the clenching occurs frequently, it may lead to sensitive or worn down teeth.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and teeth grinding
The TMJ is a ‘hinge’ joint that help enables your jaw movement. People who have a habit of clenching or grinding their teeth may experience TMJ pain.
People who have TMJ pain are likely to have some sleep issues as well. To make matters worse, sometimes when people experience pain, they tend to clench their jaw even harder.
How to help manage teeth grinding
There are different approaches to help manage teeth grinding. The most commonly used way is to wear a ‘bite splint’ at night. It will help protect the teeth from wearing down further, but won’t stop the teeth grinding itself.
Excessive grinding is usually associated with sleep disorders such as OSA.
Stress and teeth grinding
Stress has also been linked with teeth grinding. If that’s the case, your dentist may recommend seeing your GP, who can discuss various stress management options available to you.
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