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The many implications of teeth grinding.

MANY people across the country grind their teeth in times of stress or anxiety.

But few realise it's a genuine medical condition which could be made worse by taking antidepressants - or even going scuba diving.

Bruxism is the involuntary habit of either grinding or clenching our teeth.

We all grind, clench or tap our teeth on occasions but the stress of modern day lifestyles has meant that bruxism is very much a 21st century condition.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include: Loud grinding | | Teeth that are worn down, |fractured or chipped Increased sensitivity to hot |and cold drinks Jaw pain, clicking, locking | | Ear pain and discomfort in |the back, neck and shoulders Muscle tension in the face |and/or facial pain Headaches | | Ridges on the inside of |cheeks caused by chewing It's often not clear what causes bruxism but the following factors may increase your risk: Stress: Increased anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding. So can anger and frustration. Age: Bruxism is common in young children, but usually goes away by adolescence. Malocclusion: Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth Sleep disorders: Any disturbance of sleep may increase your risk.

Stimulating substances: Smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol, or taking illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or ecstasy can increase the risk of bruxism. Medication antidepressants and antipsychotics may exacerbate the problem.

"Type A" personalities: Evidence suggests that if you're a competitive control freak, you're far more likely to be a bruxer. Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels may play a part as can nutritional deficiencies and allergies.

Disease: Bruxism has been linked with Huntington's and Parkinson's disease.

Scuba diving: Clenching seems to be the greatest risk factor for pain in the cheek muscles following diving. Also, participation in sports such as boxing, weightlifting and rugby may increase the risk.

If you think you may be grinding, it's usually best to see your dentist. Appointments are often brief, so it's a good idea to be well prepared: Write down any symptoms |you're experiencing even if they seem unrelated to the problem.

Jot down any key personal information, including major stresses or recent life events.

Make a list of all medications, |including any vitamins or supplements that you're taking. And be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Such as: When do you think it may |have started? Have your symptoms been |continuous or occasional? Has anyone heard you grind-|ing your teeth? Is there anything in particu-|lar that makes it better? Is there anything that makes |it worse? Management of the condition It makes sense that successful management of bruxism is dependent on correct identification of the cause.

The most common treatment is an acrylic splint, or mouth guard, which fits on the biting surfaces of either the top or bottom teeth to prevent them from rubbing together.

In general, medications aren't very effective. Tablets that prevent rapid eye movement sleep are sometimes prescribed but often result in poor quality of sleep. Diazepam can be helpful but should be avoided long term due to dependency problems.

In some cases, it may be suggested that you take a muscle relaxant before bedtime.

If you have developed bruxism as a side effect of antidepressants, talk to your doctor as it may be possible to alter your prescription.

Botulism toxin A (Botox) injections may help people with severe bruxism who haven't responded to other treatments. Helping Yourself The following tips may help to prevent or treat bruxism: Stress: Reduce stress in your life and avoid the triggers that cause anxiety for you. Even if the cause of your bruxism is unknown, reducing stress is good for your general health.

Stress management: Some sufferers find counselling and cognitive behavioural techniques helpful.

Heat: Application of a heat pack may help alleviate muscle pain. Avoid stimulating substances in the evening: Don't drink coffee or tea after dinner, plus avoid alcohol and smoking during the evening as they may worsen bruxism.

Diet: Nutritional advice such as a hypoglycemic diet, avoiding fast food, red meat, refined sugars and saturated fats may decrease the habit.

Have regular dental checkups: The best way of screening, especially if you live and sleep alone and don't have anyone to tell you you're grinding. Your dentist will spot signs of bruxism in your mouth and advise you of preventative measures. Finally, as with all things, prevention is better than cure so if you think you're gnashing your molars be sure to visit your dentist as they may well be able to provide you with a fast, simple solution.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 30, 2014
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