Editorial note: While many people in the UK make it a point of honor to say they never read The Mail, when it comes to its health and femail pages The Mail can be quite astonishing. For some of us who have followed the stories on RxISK linking SSRI use to alcoholism, the Mail’s pages feature an extraordinary parade of women crashing cars and killing others, or divorced by husbands or otherwise ruined because of alcoholism with their antidepressant usage tucked away in the corner of the story. Here the Mail tackles another issue but without mentioning antidepressants.
The single biggest cause the problems outlined here is likely to be antidepressant usage. See SSRIs & Tooth Grinding. There may be other drugs that can do this – let us know if you suspect something you have been on.
(The original article is here)
By Antonia Hoyle for the Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 22:57, 5 November 2014 | UPDATED: 06:39, 6 November 2014
One afternoon in October last year, Sue Downes’ upper gum started to swell, causing a dull throbbing pain that was impervious to paracetamol. The swelling eventually spread to the entire left side of her face until, as Sue says, she looked like the elephant man.
The agony was so great that at 2am the next morning Sue drove to A&E at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, where she was diagnosed with an abscess and prescribed antibiotics.
Worse was to come. When the infection in her gum finally cleared a month later, Sue, 57, was told the tooth at the seat of it had to be removed. It was the sixth she had lost, and the cause was the same — teeth grinding.
Sue’s story might sound extreme but she is not alone. One in four Britons suffer from bruxism — the medical term for the condition — and the majority are middle-aged women.
‘More of us are grinding our teeth than ever,’ says dentist Dr Stephen Pitt. ‘I treat more women than men and there seems to be an increase towards the age of menopause, because this is a stressful time for women and tooth grinding is a response to stress. It is an under-diagnosed and debilitating problem that can lead to infection, fractures, tooth loss and even hearing problems.’
For Sue, a learning disability support worker from Sudbury in Suffolk, bruxism has cost her not only her teeth, but destroyed her self-esteem and even a relationship. ‘It has caused me no end of physical and emotional pain. I have dreams of my teeth crumbling but am powerless to stop grinding them,’ she says.
According to research, sufferers grind their teeth while asleep, placing ten times more pressure on them than while eating.
Sue first realised she was doing it in 2004, when she was going through the menopause, but believes losing her mother to cancer, plus a demanding job, compounded the problem.
‘My sleep was fitful and I had night sweats,’ she says. ‘I would wake with headaches and jaw pain. Sometimes I’d even wake myself up by biting my cheek.’
That year, her NHS dentist prescribed a protective silicone mouth guard for her lower jaw, to wear overnight. Yet Sue found she was somehow taking it out in her sleep.
‘When I woke it would be at the bottom of the bed, and there was nothing I could do about it.’ Her teeth began to loosen under the pressure of constantly being compressed into her jaw, weakening the periodontal ligaments that held them into the bone.
By 2008, her back teeth had become too wobbly to save. ‘Each time one was taken out, I was devastated,’ she says. ‘It wasn’t the pain that upset me so much as the prospect of looking prematurely aged, toothless and unattractive.’
But still Sue didn’t stop. ‘I simply started grinding my front teeth. Every morning I noticed they had visibly shifted. I grew terrified of losing them, too.’
In 2009 Sue — who has never married — began seeing Kevin, a publican, now 52. But her grinding habit began to cause problems.
‘He said it sounded like a pneumatic drill, and he’d often leave our bedroom to sleep downstairs. We’d both be irritable through lack of sleep the next day and he’d be angry I’d kept him awake. The problem strained our relationship and we started to row.’
She’s convinced it contributed to their break-up in 2012.
One reason grinding is so damaging is that loosened teeth make it easier for bacteria to get into the gums and cause infections, and in Sue’s case, an abscess.
The tooth Sue subsequently had taken out left a visible gap. To disguise it she was advised to have a bridge fitted — a false tooth attached to its neighbours. But she was told it would cost £1,200. ‘That is money I don’t have,’ she says. ‘But if it gets to the point where I lose my front teeth I will re-mortgage my house to cover the cost of decent replacements.’
Because tooth grinding is often brought on by stress, counselling is recommended to address underlying psychological issues. But the most effective –—and surprising — treatment available is Botox.
Usually associated with eradicating wrinkles, Botox is a purified form of toxic bacterium Clostridium botulinum and works by blocking nerve activity in the muscles, temporarily reducing their activity.
Dentists began using Botox to treat tooth grinding around 2000. Injected into the lower jaw muscles, it relaxes them so that sufferers find it difficult to clench their teeth.
Cheryl Hills, 45, has had Botox. But a tooth grinding habit that she had from a child, but left untreated until eight years ago, means she has just eight teeth left in her upper jaw.
Married to upholsterer Paul, 51, Cheryl started suffering dental problems at the age of 30. ‘It hurt to eat. My gums were sore and grew infected. I developed abscesses and required endless doses of antibiotics,’ she says. ‘All day, every day, I was in constant pain.’
Her back six molars slowly started to fracture. ‘After root-canal treatment failed to save them they had to be taken out,’ says Cheryl, of Manningtree in Essex. ‘It might sound strange but my only emotion on losing them was relief — it meant I was no longer in pain.’
Astonishingly, Cheryl’s NHS dentist never suggested her problems came from tooth grinding.
Throughout her 30s, Cheryl felt huge pressure from her job as a secretary. ‘I’d go home every day worrying about my workload. Clenching my teeth seemed to be an almost automatic response to stress but I had no idea it was causing me harm,’ she says.
Unhappy with her dental treatment, in 2006 Cheryl went to Dr Pitt, who owns The Dental Studio in Colchester.
‘He said all my problems had been caused by tooth grinding,’ recalls Cheryl. ‘I was annoyed nobody had told me this before. Had I known in my 20s before my teeth started suffering the effects of grinding they could have been saved.’
Cheryl — whose missing top teeth were replaced by a partial denture — says a mouth guard she was prescribed did not prevent the grinding entirely, so in 2011 she started having £200 Botox injections every six months.
‘It has been brilliant at stopping me grinding my teeth,’ she says.
Unfortunately, it is not just teeth that are at risk, as Tanya Hindes, 36, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, discovered. The joints in her jaw are now so damaged that if she opens her mouth more than an inch they make a cracking sound loud enough to make strangers stare.
A project manager for a market research company, she began grinding her teeth as a child but started suffering the consequences in her 20s.
‘I’d wake up with migraines at least once a month,’ she says. ‘They lasted a couple of hours and made my vision blurry, which meant I couldn’t drive, so I would be late for work. Once, when I was 24, the migraine was so severe I was hospitalised. My NHS dentist said she could see I ground my teeth as they had worn down but I had no idea it was the cause.’
At 30, her jaw started to ache. ‘It was a persistent pain and numbness and as the years passed it grew harder to open my mouth,’ says Tanya, who has three sons with husband Paul, 45, a store manager. ‘I knew I should see somebody about it but life as a working mother was so hectic my health became a low priority.’
Yet when she developed a persistent earache she saw an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at James Paget University Hospital in Norfolk. He carried out a hearing test and examined Tanya’s jaw before telling her that the pain — along with the migraines — came from tooth grinding.
‘It is common to mistake pain from the jaw as earache as the jaw joints are close to the eardrums,’ says Tanya. ‘I was shocked.’
Dr Pitt explains: ‘The jaw is attached to the skull by a hinge joint. Over the joint where it joins the skull there is a capsule. When that is put under stress through tooth grinding it can cause the capsule to slip over the head of the joint, which is what causes the clicking sound, and, over time, stops people being able to open their jaw fully. In severe cases surgery may be needed.’
Tanya was prescribed anti-inflammatory cream and referred to an orthodontist, who told her to eat pureed food for eight weeks to allow her jaw muscles to relax.
She, too, was prescribed a mouth guard, but it caused her more pain. ‘The first night I wore it the edges rubbed the inside of my gum and ripped open my skin. Luckily, since then my mouth has grown more used to it, and it has helped, but if I’m concentrating at work I still grind,’ says Tanya.
She still suffers from migraines and enamel has started to flake off her damaged molars.
‘I’ve had to cancel the children’s play dates when my head hurts too much and I’d love to be able to eat steak,’ she says. ‘I’d also love to stop grinding my teeth but I don’t know how.’ Something that all too many women wonder, too.