Teeth Grinding: An Overview

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, is a condition that causes you to grind, clench or gnash your teeth. You may also clench your teeth together without realizing you’re doing it. Grinding them at night is known as sleep bruxism.

Depending on the degree of bruxism you have, it may, or may not, require you to get treatment. Mild bruxism typically doesn’t require treatment. However, if it’s frequent and severe enough, it can cause headaches, jaw disorders, and damaged teeth among other issues. Since it’s possible to have sleep bruxism and not know it until you’re seeing the complications from it, you need to know the signs and symptoms, and to get regular dental checkups.

The symptoms and signs of bruxism include:

  • Teeth clenching or grinding while sleeping that may be so loud as to wake up your partner.
  • Having teeth that are fractured, chipped, flattened or worn down.
  • Developing worn tooth enamel that exposes the deeper layers of the tooth.
  • More acute tooth sensitivity.
  • Pain or tightness in the jaw muscles.
  • Earache due to severe contractions of the jaw muscle.
  • Headache.
  • Chronic face pain.
  • Inside cheek tissue that’s chewed.
  • Tongue indentations.

Be sure to see your dentist if your teeth become worn, sensitive or damaged, you develop jaw, face or ear pain, or others tell you of the grinding noise you make while you sleep.

No one really understands what causes bruxism. There are, however, possible physical or psychological issues include:

  • Stress, tension or anxiety.
  • Repressed anger or frustration.
  • Personality of aggressiveness, competitiveness or hyperactivity.
  • Changes in sleep cycles.
  • Abnormal alignment of lower and upper teeth.
  • In children, a response to pain from teething or an earache.
  • Complications from such disorders as Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease.
  • A rare side effect from certain psychiatric medications.

While definitive causes aren’t certain, there are a couple of factors that can increase your risk of developing bruxism. These include increased stress or anxiety that can cause teeth to grind, and age, since it’s common in young children. Bruxism typically disappears by the time adolescence begins.

Most of the time, bruxism doesn’t result in serious complications. However, severe bruxism may cause damage to your teeth and/or jaw, give you tension headaches, facial pain, and TMJ disorders.

Once you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll most likely start by seeing your dentist. Sometimes you may be referred to a sleep specialist. Since most appointments are brief in nature, you need to make a list of all questions you have before you go.

This will save time while ensuring that you’ll get your questions answered in the time allotted to you. In addition, be prepared to answer some questions yourself. These will include such things as when you first noticed any symptoms, are they constant or occasional, and how severe they are. You’ll also most likely be asked if there’s anything that lessens or worsens the symptoms.

Most cases of bruxism are mild and will not require treatment. The more severe cases of it will be treated through different types of therapy, a splint, correcting misaligned teeth, and mouth guards. Medications are generally not suggested in the treatment of bruxism as it is typically ineffective. The exception to this is if your dentist prescribes a muscle relaxant to take at bedtime.

Bruxism is, admittedly, a rather annoying and, often, miserable affliction. However, it doesn’t have to ruin your life or your teeth. Working together with your dentist, you can most likely find the perfect solution.

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