Did you know that as many as six million Brits suffer from bruxism, the condition where people grind or clench their teeth? We speak to two experts to learn how to treat the condition and the damage it causes.

Bruxism

Teeth grinding or clenching is a surprisingly common habit. The medical name for this is ‘bruxism’. So far, so what, right? But what if we told you that the action of teeth grinding or clenching could be changing the shape of your face, making your jawline more angular and square?

That’s not the only damage this bad habit can cause. Bruxism can damage the teeth, with many experiencing tooth wear, chipped, cracked or broken teeth and increased dental sensitivity.

Individuals can also experience other symptoms such as headaches (especially in the temple area) enlarged jaw muscles, tightness or clicking in the jaw area, as well as facial pain, and even acute neck pain.

In spite of all these symptoms, most people only realise that they are grinding or clenching their teeth at a dental check-up. Are you one of them?

“I can tell at a glance if a patient is likely to be grinding heavily on their teeth, before even looking in their mouth…. These people often have enlarged jaw muscles.”

Celebrity dentist and expert in the treatment of advance tooth wear, Dr Ahmed Hussein and cosmetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetic trainer, Dr Zainab Al-Mukhtar tell us more about the condition and how to treat it.

“I can tell at a glance if a patient is likely to be grinding heavily on their teeth, before even looking in their mouth” says Dr Zainab. “These people often have enlarged jaw muscles. Clenching and grinding the teeth daily is effectively giving a rigorous, frequent workout for the jaw muscles, which grow in size as a result. Some patients even complain that their widened jaw leaves their face looking larger than they would like and more ‘square’ in appearance. Some women feel this creates a more masculine appearance.”

“In addition, teeth grinding over time can wear away at the dental enamel. Worn teeth are shorter in height, leading to changes in the bite so patients may present with a shorter facial appearance and a weakened support structure for facial tissue. This in turn can contribute to premature facial sagging, wrinkling and ageing around the mouth, another clue that the patient may suffer with bruxism” adds Dr Ahmed.

The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but it won’t surprise you to learn that stress and anxiety are regarded as being major contributory factors.

The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but it won’t surprise you to learn that stress and anxiety are regarded as being major contributory factors.

Bruxism

Treating Bruxism

From a clinical perspective, helping to manage bruxism is not always straight forward. Many patients are fitted with a tailor-made night-time guard (rather like a gum shield) by their dentist to help to reduce the wear and tear they are inflicting on their teeth. “First of all though, we assess the function of the teeth, as it is so important to have a stable bite so that the teeth will no longer be gliding against each other in a traumatic way.
Additionally, they sometimes need to address the other effects of bruxism, affecting facial shape.

“At our clinic we have found that one of the most effective ways to counter the outward effects of excessive tooth grinding and clenching on the face is using neurotoxin.” Says Dr Zainab.

“Neurotoxin treatment is particularly effective as it blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. In the case of bruxism, it can help to reduce the activity in the jaw muscles which in turns reduces the clenching forces on the teeth, lessening the damage. Treatment results are not experienced instantly, it can take a few weeks for the full effects to be experienced, and they last four to six months.”

Treating the effects of Bruxism

When it comes to treating the effects of bruxism, the damage caused is often more than skin deep. Dr Ahmed explains: “Prolonged clenching and grinding can cause the teeth to wear away considerably faster than they would through the normal aging process. I have seen patients wear their teeth to very small stumps through years of grinding. Many patients approach me keen to reverse the worn-down appearance in the smile as a result of their bruxism.”

“The evolution of aesthetic dentistry, has enabled dentists to reduce signs of wear, and even lengthen shortened teeth through expert use of composite bonding. Composite bonding is the application of composite resin to the surface of the tooth to restore it, without damaging anymore of the residual tooth structure. It’s a simple, inexpensive cosmetic dental procedure that is usually completed in a single visit. In addition to improving the aesthetic of the smile, the lengthening of shortened teeth can, for many, have the additional benefit of increasing the structural support of the facial tissue reducing the appearance of facial sagging around the mouth.”

While it’s reassuring to know that there are treatments available to fix the effects of bruxism, prevention is always better than a cure. Now, can anyone tell us how to eliminate all stress and anxiety so that we can live unbothered and carefree lives?

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