Do you sometimes wake up with a dull headache? Do you suffer with migraines and you just can’t figure out the cause? Or have you got symptoms of sinusitis but no actual infection?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may be one of millions of people who clench or grind their teeth.
Teeth clenching and grinding is an issue that affects people of all ages. In fact, research has found that almost all of us will unknowingly grind or clench our teeth at one time or another.
While the exact cause of clenching and grinding is unknown, factors that contribute to it include stress, anxiety, lifestyle factors (such as alcohol consumption and smoking) and sleep apnoea.
Teeth grinding can be a temporary or a chronic problem and causes issues such as: jaw pain, tooth breakage and the erosion of your dental enamel – especially towards the back of your mouth.
The difference between teeth clenching and grinding?
Our teeth are not designed to be in contact constantly – when you eat or chew there is obviously some contact, but at other times your upper and lower teeth should not be touching.
Clenching occurs when the upper and lower teeth clamp tightly together, marked by a short time of tension. This exerts pressure on the jawbone and, over time, will gradually wear down the outer surface of the teeth.
Grinding occurs when the teeth are clenched and move backwards and forwards on top of each other. The medical term for both clenching and grinding is bruxism, and in most cases, you won’t even be aware that you suffer from it.
Headaches and Migraines
The pressure caused by clamping the teeth together can be a trigger for headaches, and in more serious cases, for migraines. The pressure or pain from the clenching action, impacts the jaw and travels to other parts of the skull – resulting in tension-type headaches.
As the muscles tighten and the teeth clench, the resulting pain can even cause earaches. Many patients do not connect their headache or migraine with dental issues and try numerous painkillers or organise visits to their GP before getting to the real cause.
Sinus pain or facial pain is also an effect of teeth grinding and clenching. If a patient has sinusitis, this will invariably be caused by some form of infection or virus. However, sinus pain from grinding or clenching is caused by irritation to the lining or by the bending of the thin bone layers in this area.
Often patients assume their sinus pain is due to an infection or blockage, when in fact its due to the continual pressure exerted on the jawbone by the clenching action.
At Whitestar Dental, patients are often surprised when we ask if they have been grinding their teeth. In most cases, they have been doing so in their sleep and are totally unaware of the problem.
Our most popular treatment for clenching and grinding is a custom-made mouthguard. This is a soft, flexible dental appliance that can significantly reduce the impact teeth clenching has on your dental enamel and jaw bone and can help you to enjoy a better night’s sleep.
While a mouth guard won’t automatically stop the grinding, it will eliminate the effects bruxism has on your dental and physical health. Grinding and clenching can be reduced with further investigations into your sleep patterns, relaxation techniques and decreasing stress.
If you’re experiencing unusual facial pain or headaches, contact us on 0208 427 1800 to book a check-up now.