Bruxism is a serious and costly condition. It is also extremely common and is estimated to affect around 8-10% of the population. Characterised by jaw clenching and teeth grinding, bruxism can lead to dental damage and jaw problems. It can occur when awake or asleep.
Around 70% of sleep bruxism cases are believed to be stress-related. Anxiety is also commonly associated with the condition. During sleep the anxieties which a person is experiencing during the day are transferred into the jaw and teeth, with the resulting characteristic grinding.
Chronic dental symptoms of bruxism are serious and over a prolonged period of time sufferers can inadvertently grind through the enamel on their teeth, leading to breakages or even tooth loss.
As Professor David Bartlett, head of the prosthodontics at King’s College London’s Dental Institute, said: “There’s very solid evidence that stress is one key cause of people grinding their teeth. Therefore, one would expect that during a recession, when people are worried about losing their jobs or their homes, that you might see an increase in the problem. It can be a very serious condition if left untreated and is certainly the most destructive element of dentistry. When people clench and grind their teeth, the force they impact can be huge but they might not be aware of the damage they are causing. They can wear right through teeth or end up destroying fillings and crowns. I have witnessed patients who have ground through metal fillings in the space of just two weeks.” (The Telegraph, May 2009).
Most first line dental treatments involve teeth guards which a dental patient wears at night. The guard is designed to provide a barrier and help stop the enamel being destroyed. However, as many bruxism sufferers will testify to, the guards are often worn through quickly and are not very comfortable. Unfortunately, chronic sufferers will inevitably find themselves spending a small fortune on guards, implants, extractions and other dental repair work; and worse, these treatments are really only targeting the symptoms of bruxism, so do nothing to alleviate the causes of the stress or anxiety underlying the behaviour.
Thankfully hypnosis is an excellent therapy for tackling the unconscious stress mechanisms which can cause teeth grinding. It teaches the client how to relax the jaw and their whole mind-body complex; helps tackle the stress head -on and can bring about positive life change. The Bruxism Association quoted one study on the effects of hypnosis on bruxism; where the research still found measurable, positive outcome effects even after 36 months. A comparatively cheap, pain-free and safe treatment, hypnosis should be considered as a first line treatment for any sufferer of bruxism.