Don’t let jaw problems grind you down

Grinding your teeth is a common habit, but according to a leading oral health charity, it has the potential to alter your smile.

Also known as Bruxism, teeth grinding affects over six million people in the UK alone(3). It can be brought on by anything from physical responses during sleep to psychological pressures of everyday living. However, persistent teeth grinding is detrimental to oral health. It can lead to abnormal and exacerbated tooth wear, fractured teeth, inflammation and receding gums, loose teeth and premature tooth loss. It can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns, both for you and your partner.

Signs of Bruxism can also be spotted by aching muscles, limited opening of the mouth, migraines and persistent headaches, and Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, recommends a visit to the dentist if you come across any of these signs.

Dr Carter said: “Bruxism can cause Temporo-Mandibular Joint disorder, resulting in clicking, grinding or pain in your jaw joints, ringing or buzzing in your ears and difficulty in opening or closing your mouth. When the joint puts pressure on the nerves, muscles and blood vessels that pass near the head, it can often result in headaches and migraines.

“The cause of your headaches could actually be the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together, otherwise known as dental occlusion. If you do suffer from continual headaches or migraines, especially first thing in the morning, pain behind your eyes, sinus pains and pains in the neck or shoulders, you should consider visiting your dentist, as well as a doctor, as soon as possible.”

Depending on the problems you are having, it can be possible that these are related to the way your teeth bite together. Your dentist may be able to help you or may refer you to a specialist who deals with occlusal problems. Provision of an appliance to wear at night or when you know you are grinding is a simple way of relieving symptoms and proving the dental link. Your teeth may need to be carefully adjusted to meet evenly, as changing the direction and position of the slopes that guide your teeth together can often help reposition the jaw. If your teeth are too far out of line or in the wrong bite position, it may be necessary to fit a brace to move them into a better position.

As the joint connecting your lower jaw and skull (TMJ joint) needs equal support from both sides of both jaws, the chewing action is designed to work properly only when all your teeth are present and in the correct position. Therefore, missing teeth may need to be replaced either with a partial denture, bridgework or implants.

As with any joint pain, it can help to put less stress on the joint. That stress could be as a result of psychological stresses of everyday life, or physical stress caused by teeth grinding. People often find that they clench or grind when doing things with their hands and concentrating and recognising this may help to break the habit. Physiotherapy exercises can often help, and your dentist may be able to show some of these to you. As it is such a specialist area within dentistry, your dentist may wish to refer you to an expert.

In support of Bruxism Awareness Week, commencing on October 24, the Foundation is looking make the general public aware that help is at hand if they have any of these issues in the form of the Dental Helpline. The team of qualified dental professionals can advise on subjects such as dental terms, treatment procedures and oral hygiene.

For information and free expert advice on any oral health issue, call the Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188, or alternatively visit

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