'It's been a bad habit from an early age' 

Matt Leslie has ground his teeth since childhood, but it was only when his dentist told him he was a bruxist that he realised the problems his teeth grinding could cause.

"I remember from an early age my parents telling me to 'stop grinding my teeth', so I suppose it's been a bad habit from an early age. I didn't realise the problems it could cause until I was much older.

"I first noticed a problem with my jaw when I was at university. It began clicking quite regularly when I ate or yawned, so I visited my doctor to see if there was a problem. He asked me lots of questions about whether I had been hit playing sport or if I'd been in a fight, but there wasn't an obvious explanation. He told me to take anti-inflammatories and that there was nothing to worry about. The clicking never went away, but I've got more used to it over the years.

"It was only when my dentist told me I am a bruxist, about eight years ago, that things started to fall into place. My dentist explained that I grind my teeth, and to such an extent that it was causing dental problems. It was the likely cause of my clicking jaw, too.

"During more visits to my dentist it became clear that the lower left side of my jaw was rife with problems. I had ground my back teeth down to a sharp point and had some cracked teeth, too. In short, my nightly grinding was slowly wearing down my teeth.

"Over the last few years I've had to have root canal treatment and crowns put in place, and I've also been fitted with a mouth splint. The mouth splint I have is made out of a fairly stiff clear plastic and is moulded exactly to fit over my lower teeth and correct my bite. I've worn it nearly every night for the last four years and had to replace it once when it cracked. I don't think it has stopped me from grinding my teeth at night, but at least it's protecting my teeth from any further damage.

"Since I've been aware of bruxism and its effects, I've started to realise how it affects me on a daily basis. I can't eat very chewy or crunchy food, such as crusty bread, because it really makes my jaw ache and gives me a headache. Also, very occasionally, I wake up and can't open my jaw because it feels so stiff.

"I mostly grind my teeth at night, but I do catch myself grinding during the day sometimes, especially when I'm concentrating on something. My colleagues have to tell me I'm doing it!

"I'm not sure why I grind my teeth. I don't feel stressed and don't suffer from any sleep disorders. I think, for me, bruxism is a bad habit that started young and is going to be hard to break. It doesn't cause me daily pain, so it's difficult to know what to do about it. I'd like to find some ways I could try to break the habit."

Page last reviewed: 05/09/2014

Next review due: 05/05/2017