Bruxism – Tooth Grinding and Clenching

Bruxism is the word dentists use to describe tooth grinding or clenching.  Grinding is  side to side movement of the teeth, forcefully. Clenching is when you set your teeth together and squeeze!  The forces involved in both these actions are huge, they can be the equivalent of 65 kg of force on one single tooth.

We have noticed that many people have a bruxism problem but are unaware of it. What we notice is- tight tense facial muscles, broken or chipped teeth, white lines along the inside of the cheeks at the biting level and sometimes signs of lost bone on xray pictures. What you might notice yourself is headaches, tender teeth,migraine, jaw and neck pain. Many people clench/grind when they are stressed, or when they are concentrating hard at their computers. There is a lot of stress in modern life and bruxism is a way of dealing with it.

A minority of people are completely hardwired to clench, it’s in their brain. They have large facial muscles, can have worn teeth and they smash all their teeth. The more they clench and grind, the bigger their facial muscles get, and then the more powerful their clenching and grinding gets.

What can we do about bruxism? We have got together with Stuart Douglas ,  a hypnotherapist, and Jane Paterson, to provide  alternative methods of treating bruxism.

  1. The first thing is to become aware of what your teeth are doing throughout the day. The teeth should not be set together but slightly apart in a nice relaxed position.  Put a post-it on your computer to remind you. It’s good to put your tongue to the roof of your mouth, saying N-N-N (to yourself!)  can help the jaw relax.
  2. We can prevent the effects of night-time clenching or grinding with the provision of a small splint called SCI ( sleep clenching inhibitor). These are effective and most people get on really well with them. The SCI helps the jaw joints and muscles relax all night long and takes the pressure off all the teeth.
  3. Hypnotherapy- treatment for people with Bruxism using hypnotherapy  tackles the stress, anxiety or even anger that can be associated with it. Breaking the habit is the key for success.  This would require an individual programme for each person as each person is unique.
  4. We are  able to refer for Botox treatment for the large clenching muscles. Botox is great because the muscles are relaxed, the clenching stops, the pain and wear stop. The treatment usually lasts for a few months and one treatment can be enough to break the habit.  We now have Jane Paterson working at the practice who can provide this treatment. 
  5. The “diehard clenchers” will not be able to quit. We aim to prevent the damage caused by clenching with a splint. Repair of the damage caused is usually with composite which we can repair again- when it breaks again! Botox might possibly work, hypnotherapy will not.

We also have Fiona Sutherland of First Contact available to provide sports massage to ease those tired, tense, back, neck and shoulder muscles.

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