“Do you grind your teeth?” I asked my patient. She looked surprised and said, “Not that I know of!”
At Ultimate Smile Design, this is a common exchange with our patients during preventive dental checkups. We often see evidence of teeth clenching and grinding, or bruxism, while our patients don’t even realize they are doing it.
As we discuss the issue, symptoms often surface. Patients are often unaware that the following symptoms they are experiencing may be the result of bruxism:
- A dull headache in the morning
- Tight jaw muscles that make it difficult to open their mouth wide
- Pain or swelling in the face
- Damaged teeth and sore gums
- Sensitive teeth due to wear along the gumline
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is derived from the Greek word for “gnashing of the teeth.” It can occur during sleep or while awake and is a common involuntary reaction to stress. It involves grinding the teeth side to side or clamping the upper and lower teeth together reflexively as the body reacts to signals from the brain to be vigilant.
Bruxism causes many problems with the structure of the teeth as well as issues with the jaw and gums. As bruxism persists over a person’s lifetime, it takes a toll on their oral health, including:
- Cracks and broken fillings
- Wearing down the dentin, causing sensitivity
- Receding gums
- Wearing down of the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Headache and aching jaws
- Damage to the Temporomandibular Joint
Treatment for Bruxism
Stress is often the cause of bruxism, but medication and sleep disturbances can also play a role. Also, a patient’s uneven bite or malocclusion can cause bruxism. It’s important to understand the cause of each patient’s bruxism in order to treat it. Changes in lifestyle and stress reduction are helpful.
We thoroughly evaluate the damage the bruxism has caused and repair the damage, if necessary. We also suggest remedies to prevent further damage. A custom-fitted mouthpiece, also referred to as a splint or night guard, can be made, which keeps the teeth from touching and grinding.
While we may notice the signs of bruxism before you do, if you experience any of the symptoms we described above, please bring it to our attention during your next visit. It is so important to be prevention-oriented when it comes to bruxism.
You may also be interested in this article: How Stress Affects Your Teeth