Teeth Grinding

Question: I have been told that I grind my teeth in my sleep. It hasn’t caused any dental problems so far, but will there be damage to my teeth, long-term? Could the teeth-grinding be a symptom of a psychological issue? I am a 25-year-old man who has recently started a new job.

Answer: You are likely suffering from bruxism, an involuntary habitual teeth grinding. It is a complex disorder involving biophysiological and psychosocial factors.

Causes of Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

Biophysiological factors include misaligned positioning of the teeth when the jaws are closed and distortion in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) — the joint and muscles that control jaw movement.

Psychosocial factors include stress, anxiety, anxious personality traits, and neurodevelopmental disorders (such as ADHD — Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Sleep disturbances such as noise and light, as well as reduced sleep time, have also been linked to sleep bruxism.

In many adults, bruxism is related to TMJ Disorder (TMD), as well as sleep apnoea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.

Related: Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

To find the cause of your bruxism, I would recommend you consult a dentist. If the bruxism is due to TMD or sleep apnoea, you may be referred to a specialist.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

Bruxism can be treated with an occlusal splint — a removable dental appliance moulded to fit the upper or lower arches of the teeth. This is worn at night to reduce the amount of grinding pressure on the teeth during sleep. Treatment may also include simple medication and physiotherapy.

Preventing Bruxism

To prevent bruxism and have a restful sleep, you should avoid playing video games or watching action movies an hour before going to bed. Try this simple relaxation technique:

  • Breathe in deeply, hold for three seconds, then breathe out slowly.
  • Say “relax” in your mind while breathing out.
  • Repeat until you feel calm.
Dr Holy Koh Jr
Senior Dental Surgeon
National Healthcare Group Polyclinics

Dr Wong Mei Yin
Principal Clinical Psychologist
National Healthcare Group Polyclinics

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