Teeth clenching or grinding is one of the ways some people unconsciously handle stress; just as others develop problems in their stomach, and others high blood pressure.
Everybody handles excess stress differently. Some people develop an ulcer, some people develop high blood pressure, and some people grind or clench their teeth. However, it is just recently, that dentists have realized that this clenching is a consequence of stress, and not of malocclusion (the way teeth fit together.)In the past, when it came to teeth clenching, most dentists would often use grinding methods to try and readjust the teeth and prevent this problem. Of course, there is a very small percentage of people that grind their teeth at night because of their sleep pattern.
The problem with teeth grinding is that it causes excessive wear on teeth. Teeth grinding causes you to wear away the tooth enamel which leads to tooth decay and sensitive teeth. Besides, if you have expensive dental work done then it can also cause damage to work done.
It can also cause excessive stress on jaw muscles and joints. Additionally prolonged grinding can cause osteoarthritis and bone loss.
Who Does This Affect?
Experts still don’t know why some people clench their teeth excessively at night, but they do believe it to be hereditary, and even related to gender, as more women than men tend to grind their teeth. Health experts believe the problem may be hereditary and more prevalent in people between the ages of 20 to 40.
Most people that grind their teeth are aware of the habit as they wake up with a painful jaw from clenching or their spouse hears them in the night.
What Can I Do?
Your dentist can help prevent the damage this habit causes by fitting you with a mouth guard that protects you from grinding your teeth. When the problem is caused by stress you need to reduce the stress in your life. Starting a healthy exercise program, a meditation class or seeing a therapist can help reduce the stress in your life.
You should also:
Reduce or avoid caffeine. This is found in coffee but other substances like colas and chocolate too.
Reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption.
Avoid chewing on other non-food substances like pencils, or pens. This habit makes your jaw get used to clenching.
Use a warm wet hand towel against your jaw at night, just before bed, to relax your jaw muscles.