Nighttime teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common habit that involves side-to-side movement of the teeth and jaws over each other. Grinding usually occurs at night, and many people are unaware of the condition and do not know that they need treatment. The dentist can provide effective and affordable oral devices to minimize…
Treat Teeth Grinding Now to Prevent Worn Teeth Later
Many people clench or grind teeth occasionally, but when teeth grinding becomes excessive, it can damage teeth and lead to other oral health problems. Promptly treating teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can prevent future problems, such as the premature wearing of the teeth.
Bruxism is a medical or dental condition that involves excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth. This activity most commonly occurs during sleep but also occurs during waking hours in some people.
Doctors do not fully understand the causes of bruxism, though stress, certain medications, abnormalities in the teeth or jaw and some medical conditions are thought to be contributors. Other risk factors for teeth grinding include age, stress, substance abuse and family history. Children are more likely to experience bruxism than adults but often outgrow the condition without treatment.
Symptoms of teeth grinding include teeth that are flattened, cracked, chipped or loose; increased tooth pain or sensitivity; worn enamel; jaw, neck or face pain; headache; tight or sore jaw muscles; a jaw that will not open or close properly; damage to inside of cheek from chewing and sleep disruption. Untreated bruxism can lead to severe tooth damage, pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and changes in the shape of the face.
Diagnosis and treatment
The treatment options for teeth grinding vary, depending upon the cause. Dental exams are usually required to diagnose bruxism, but referrals to other medical professionals may be needed if the underlying cause is not dental.
Scheduling regular dental exams can detect bruxism early before it causes lasting damage to the teeth. If a person's dentist suspects bruxism, the dentist will ask the patient questions about their daily routine, medications, general health and sleep habits. The dentist will also evaluate the person for tenderness in the jaw muscles, dental abnormalities and damage to the teeth, jaw bone and cheeks.
Dentists can fit patients with a mouth guard or splint that prevents grinding and clenching that occurs during sleep by keeping the teeth separated. If the problem is being caused by crowded, misaligned or crooked teeth, a reductive coronoplasty procedure may be used to reshape or level the biting surface of teeth. A coronoplasty involves removing high spots on teeth and adding bonding material to even out the bite.
If stress is the cause of bruxism, a doctor or dentist can recommend stress reduction techniques, such as exercise, meditation, stress counseling, physical therapy or prescription medication. If an underlying condition, such as a sleeping disorder or GERD is the cause, treating that condition may eliminate the problem. Additionally, lifestyle modifications, such as reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and not chewing gum, may also be recommended.
Teeth clenching and grinding can lead to severe pain and tooth damage if left untreated. Regular dental exams can detect bruxism early before lasting damage is done. People who have been experiencing the symptoms of bruxism should schedule a dental exam promptly. Treating the teeth grinding now can prevent dental problems later.
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