Bruxism is a condition in which a person unconsciously grinds or clenches his or her teeth. Oftentimes, bruxism occurs during the early part of a person’s sleep and many people are actually unaware that they grind their teeth at night. It can be mild and infrequent or intense and frequent. Teeth grinding can cause damage in dental work or a person’s jaw over a period of time. So, to help you better understand the nightly grind, let’s cover some common symptoms, hidden causes and most importantly, ways to treat bruxism.
Symptoms of teeth grinding include a dull headache in the morning, earache or sore jaw. Because it happens at night, many people will shrug off the symptoms and not connect them with teeth grinding. For others, teeth grinding can be quite audible and even wake them or their partner up at night.
I have seen a number of patients over the years come in with a variety of teeth grinding cases. Teeth grinding can be a response to stress (think of jaw clenching), problems in sleeping, or an abnormal alignment of the top and bottom teeth (also called an abnormal bite). As children, many individuals will grind their teeth in response to pain as well. Bruxism is also possibly caused by missing or crooked teeth.
The challenge with teeth grinding occurs when it is done excessively over a period of time. The teeth can become worn down, causing teeth sensitivity, lead to tooth decay and damage dental work.
My best advice as a dentist is to come in for a regular dental checkup if you are concerned about teeth grinding. If after a checkup, we detect signs of unusual wear in the teeth or other signs of bruxism, there are a few options in treatment offered. One option is the use of a night guard. Night guards are custom-made out of soft material to fit your teeth. It will slip over the teeth and help prevent contact with the opposing teeth, as well as relieve pressure from the grinding or jaw clenching. In other cases, reshaping the biting surfaces with inlays or crowns may be needed.
Finally, if stress is a factor and you or someone you know absentmindedly clenches their jaw in response, try counteracting the stress by bringing awareness to your jaw area. Focusing on relaxing the jaw with the mouth closed and teeth not touching throughout the day can help break a habitual teeth grinding pattern. Also, a gentle massage in the jaw area prior to retiring for the night can be a great way to de-stress before bed and possibly reduce the night time grinding.
Since no there is no one-size fits all approach to treating bruxism dental patients, you are welcomed to visit our practice for your questions and next dental checkup. A checkup will best ensure we can provide you with the right diagnosis and care for your dental needs. Call us today at (239) 936-0597 or visit www.myfortmyersdentist.com.