Bruxism— perhaps more commonly known as teeth grinding or clenching– is something virtually everyone does from time to time. Clenching and grinding on occasion isn’t generally harmful, but when it becomes persistent and chronic, bruxism can result in a number of dental health problems. Chronic grinding can lead to damaged and fractured teeth and ultimately result in tooth loss. Additionally, long-term bruxism can result in a wearing down of the teeth so that they’re diminished in size, thus changing the sufferer’s overall appearance. Finally, chronic clenching and grinding can lead to a worsening of temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
Symptoms of Bruxism
Not everyone who suffers from bruxism is aware that they clench and grind. How is that possible? Grinding often occurs at night, when the sufferer is sleeping. So, could you be suffering from bruxism without realizing it? Consider the following symptoms of clenching and grinding:
- Interrupted sleep. Often, the sleeping partners of people who brux at nighttime complain of interrupted sleep. If your sleeping partner frequently complains of sleep disturbances due to the sounds of your grinding, you’re likely suffering from bruxism.
- Sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity– to hot or cold temperatures or even to sweets– can have a variety of causes. If you suffer from persistent sensitivity, a potential cause to consider is bruxism.
- Persistent earache. It might seem odd to link an aching ear with your teeth, but chronic earaches are a common sign of grinding and clenching. That’s because bruxism involves jaw muscle contractions, which can lead to ear pain.
- Jaw pain. Perhaps the most common sign of bruxism is frequent jaw pain. If your jaw often feels tight, sore, or even just tired, bruxism is a likely culprit.
- Frequent headaches. If you’ve been suffering from chronic headaches– and particularly headaches accompanied by facial pain– it’s time to discuss the possibility of bruxism with your dentist.
- Chipped/fractured teeth. Over time, bruxism can lead to teeth that are flattened, chipped, or otherwise damaged. If you’ve noticed that the appearance of your teeth has changed, you might be suffering from bruxism.
- Worn-down teeth. Chronic bruxism can eventually lead to a wearing down of the teeth, sometimes so severely that only small stumps remain. If your teeth appear inexplicably worn-down, talk to your dentist about the possibility of bruxism.
Of course, preventing bruxism in the first place is preferable over treating teeth that have already been damaged by clenching and grinding. But how can you prevent a problem that often occurs while you’re sleeping? Consider these prevention tips:
- Get your stress level under control. The causes of bruxism are still a matter of debate, but it’s generally agreed that high stress levels contribute to clenching and grinding. Thus, in order to prevent bruxism, it’s important to manage your stress levels. This might mean implementing a regular exercise routine, meditating, or visiting a therapist.
- Talk to your dentist about a mouth guard. If your primarily brux at night, your dentist might recommend that you wear a nighttime mouth guard to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of clenching and grinding. Your dentist can fit you for a custom-made mouth guard to maximize your comfort level.
- Watch your alcohol consumption. Often, consuming alcohol before bedtime intensifies nighttime grinding, so be mindful of when you’re drinking and how much alcohol you’re consuming.
- Cut back on the caffeine. Caffeine also leads to an increase in clenching and grinding. So, limit your daily dose of coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and other caffeinated products.
- Be mindful of your clenching and grinding. While you can’t necessarily be mindful of nighttime bruxism, you can pay attention to your clenching and grinding during the day. If you feel yourself start to clench, simply place the tip of your tongue between your teeth; this will relax your jaw muscles.
For more information regarding the effects of bruxism, contact us today.