Do you suffer from high stress, anxiety, or a sleep disorder? Well, if you said yes to any of those, then you are at a higher risk for bruxism. Also, if your teeth do not bite together properly or you have missing teeth, then you are also at an increased risk for bruxism. Furthermore, use of alcohol and tobacco is also positively associated with bruxism. So what is this fancy word, and how does it affect me? Don’t stress! Harte Dental is here to help!
Bruxism is the act of grinding and clenching your teeth together. It can happen while you are awake and/or when you are sleeping. During the day, it is important to become aware of your clenching since you can help to control the habit while conscious. For example, being stuck in traffic is stressful and may cause you to clench without even realizing it. However, when you are sleeping, there is no way of consciously controlling this behavior. That is why wearing a protective guard at night is helpful. Although a night guard will not stop the act of bruxism, it will protect the jaw and the teeth from damage.
You are probably wondering how to know if you are grinding and what you can do to prevent it. Symptoms of bruxism that you can recognize include dull headaches, jaw (or muscle) discomfort, teeth soreness, and chipped/cracked or loose teeth. Since the jaw muscles are in a constant state of flexing, it causes discomfort in the jaw joint as well as headaches because of the constant force being applied. The teeth will also become sore as a result of the pressure. The act of grinding the teeth in a back and forth pattern can cause permanent chipping on teeth as well as fracturing dental restorations. Your dental professional at our office will be able to recognize the less obvious signs of grinding such as the wear patterns on the teeth, microscopic crack lines, gum recession, and notching/abfraction along the gumline due to the strong forces related to bruxism.
Once a dental professional has diagnosed you as a bruxer, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect your teeth and your jaw. If recommended, a great next step is to be fitted for a custom night guard. There are a variety of night guards to choose from, and your dental professional will help you make the best choice for your needs. If you are a severe bruxer and need more than simply a night guard, there are adjunct therapies available such as Botox, acupuncture, and massage. Your dental professional will discuss all of the options and come up with a plan that will work best for your condition.
If you are concerned you might be grinding or clenching, please contact our office and we can help you through the next steps.