A lot of people have occasional bouts of teeth grinding, often in response to psychological triggers like anger or stress. This is normal and shouldn't be the cause of any further problems, but when the grinding becomes more frequent, subconscious or difficult to control, it's a more serious issue.

Bruxism is the name of the condition whereby people grind their teeth a lot, and it happens both during sleeping and waking hours. If you're a bruxism sufferer and you're either about to or have already started wearing braces, it's important to let an orthodontist know; here's why.

Teeth grinding and braces

First of all, the pressure exerted while grinding your teeth can seriously strain braces, whichever type you may have. That can eventually lead to them breaking, which can be expensive to replace and may injure your mouth.

The second problem is the pressure placed on the teeth and jaw. This can cause teeth to shift, interfering with your orthodontic treatment and making it more difficult to complete successfully. It can also lead to conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder, affecting the connection between the jaw and the rest of the skull and further complicating orthodontic treatment.

How to tell if you have bruxism

Even if you sometimes notice yourself grinding your teeth, you might not realise that it's happening often enough to be a problem. Try to pay attention to whether or not you're doing it during the day. You might also notice a stiff or aching jaw, or teeth becoming more sensitive as the enamel wears away.

Some people mainly grind their teeth during the night, which makes it impossible to notice unless you share a bed with someone who can tell you if they see you doing it. Pain in the jaw in the mornings usually gives away that it's a strong possibility.

What can be done to help

In addition to doing your best to limit stress, you can undergo counselling to try to help with the issue.

If you talk to your orthodontist, there may be things they can do to help, too. In some cases, bruxism is caused by teeth or your bite being misaligned, so they can work to correct this problem. They may also be able to recommend or supply a customised mouth guard, which will protect your braces and your teeth from damage and can be worn overnight to deal with bruxism while you sleep.