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The other week, my dentist accused me of grinding. No, he wasn’t commenting on my Saturday night dance moves, but rather the repetitive action my teeth were allegedly doing while I slept.
I was a little shocked. I hadn’t even been aware I was doing it, until he pointed out how tight my jaw muscles were. How could I have been so oblivious?
Known in the medical world as bruxism, grinding is the accelerated damage caused by excessive tooth-to-tooth contact, and is often done during sleep.
“Grinding can severely damage teeth and in some cases cause nerve pain, dramatically increasing your chances of cracking a tooth and potentially leading to tooth removal. From a cosmetic point of view, it produces short, flat teeth that can make a person look prematurely aged,” explains Dr Ben Wilcox, principal dentist at Shore Dental.
If left untreated, repetitive grinding can also lead to jaw pain and headaches. (Post continues after gallery.)
For obvious reasons, if you’re grinding in your sleep it can be hard to know you’re doing it. Your dentist will be able to confirm straight away, but common signs include aching and stiffness around the jaw after waking up and during chewing, cracked or chipped enamel, teeth indentations left on the tongue or inside of your cheeks, and grinding sounds that rouse your sleeping partner.
There is no single cause for the midnight grind, but rather a whole range of contributing factors, including your emotions, your age and even your personality.