27 Feb

“Grinding mills” of London

Most parents in London could have heard their kids grinding their teeth during sleep. Some people grind/clench their teeth when they get anger or stress. That is quite normal. But this tooth grinding action can be with or without their knowledge. The Medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. Teeth grinding or chewing action is a complex neuromuscular reflex activity, which is controlled by the brain (higher center) when we are awake. During sleep, the higher center or brain is inactive and the chewing reflex center, which becomes active, is not controlled by the inactive higher center resulting in bruxism. Most people who grind their teeth do so during sleep and this is called sleep bruxism.  These people are quite unaware of it until someone sleep with them notices. Sometimes people don’t notice at all and become aware of it when evaluated for other conditions such as jaw pain, headaches, dental sensitivity or dental erosion or TMD. The aetiology of this complaint is actually unknown. There are various theories such as stress, psychological causes, nutritional deficiency of vitamins such pyridoxin, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium etc. In some people, it is associated with some sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, etc. Teeth grinding is very common in children during teething, both when milk teeth appear and also when permanent teeth develop. Children generally outgrow this problem when the teeth erupt completely hence, no treatment is required. However, if your child grinds off his/her teeth for long, it might require treatment. In London, dentists generally suggest the use of mouth guards to protect the child’s teeth, if they don’t require any specific treatment. Sometimes they might be just stressed out or anxious before going to bed. So, when you identify this problem, don’t wake him/her from sleep to tell them, “hi you’re grinding your teeth”. Instead, just help them relax by telling or reading out some good small stories, or by just talking to them about nice things when they go to bed.  Some adults are also found to have this problem, which occasionally is associated with other dental problems such as nonalignment of teeth, malocclusion, structural abnormalities of the jaws etc., hence treating the root cause helps to get rid of this problem without any special treatment. So if you suspect you have bruxism, better not hesitate to visit your dentist and find out whether you have any dental conditions that is causing this problem.  Sometimes this clenching or grinding of teeth could result in serious problems with temporomandibular joints. Bruxism can also lead to wearing off of teeth, chronic headaches, pain in jaws, restriction in the movement of mandible, ear pain, etc. For adults, the use of dental guards could be of some help in constraining bruxism and protecting their teeth from irregular wearing and early erosion. So, the next time you feel like clenching your teeth, just relax… count 1,2, 3,…. and your teeth are saved.