A condition that impacts 80% of the population, those suffering from migraines or jaw pain on waking are often unaware that the cause could likely be the clenching and grinding of their teeth in sleep.
Bruxism, the medical term for the repeated clenching and grinding motion, can lead to wide reaching side effects for the sufferer, most of which are often painful in nature. Though daytime bruxing can occur in some patients, the majority of sufferers are affected in sleep, where they can exert as much as four times the usual amount of pressure onto their teeth than they would when conscious.
Common side effects of bruxism include:
- migraines & headaches on waking
- stiff neck & jaw
- ear ache
- poor sleep quality
- damage to teeth
With the exception of the latter, there is nothing about the above list of symptoms that suggests that bruxism is at the root of the problem. This is often the reason that it remains one of the most overlooked conditions in the UK.
What causes bruxism is not always clear, though there are a number of contributing factors that could suggest why a person may be clenching or grinding:
Stress: The most predominant cause, sufferers of stress & anxiety are often unaware that they are bruxing. These conditions, whether job or lifestyle related, can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and restlessness.
Lifestyle: Substances such as tobacco, alcohol and caffeine have all been linked as co-factors of bruxism. Known to affect sleep, bruxism rates are significantly higher for individuals who use these psychoactive substances.
Sleep disorders: Snorers, and those suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea or sleep paralysis are more likely to suffer from bruxism. OSA seems to be the highest risk factor, as the snoring and gasping can result in clenching & grinding.
Diagnosis & treatment
A lack of awareness amongst the general public means that those showing side effects of bruxism often consult their GP for advice. Typically, this leads to ineffective treatments that do not stop the pain from occurring.
Habitual bruxing will affect the physical appearance of teeth, with worn down incisors often present. Whilst most dentists will be trained to detect these sort abnormalities, a GP would not. Therefore, if you are exhibiting any of the side effects above, it may be a good idea to book an appointment with your dentist to determine or rule out bruxism as the cause.
For sufferers of bruxism, there are a number of different treatment options available. Due to a high percentage of cases being caused by stress or anxiety, behavioural therapy may play an important role for some sufferers. Other treatment options include: botox, muscle relaxants, as well as medications.
However, for habitual bruxers, a dental appliance called an occlusal splint may be the only viable option. This type of splint functions as a barrier between the two dental arches, preventing the teeth from contacting, therefore inhibiting the clenching and grinding.
The SCi - Sleep Clench Inhibitor - is a type of occlusal splint that is typically placed on the lower front teeth during sleep. FDA-approved for the treatment TMJ & medically-diagnosed migraines, the SCi is available from a number of dentists throughout the UK.
Where to go
If you suspect that you may be suffering from bruxism, the best thing to do is to book in for a consultation with your dentist. They should be able to determine, from the shape of your teeth alone, whether you are a habitual bruxer.
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.