Some people occasionally grind or clench their teeth causing no harm to their dental health. However, persistent bruxism can easily damage teeth and cause other oral health complications.
Although bruxism can be a result of stress and anxiety, it is most likely to occur during sleep, which is likely due to an abnormal bite, missing, or crooked teeth. Bruxism can also be caused by sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
Because grinding most likely occurs while one is sleeping, most people do not know that they suffer from bruxism until they are told. However, one symptom of bruxism that can be noticed is a dull, yet a constant headache or a sore jaw. Often, people find out that they grind their teeth at night because somebody who is close to them can hear the grinding.
Is Bruxism Harmful?
Bruxism can result in the fracturing, loosening, or even the complete loss of teeth. Chronic grinding can wear the teeth down to mere stumps. When this level of grinding occurs, crowns, fillings, bridges, root canals, dentures, and implants may be needed.
Severe bruxism can damage teeth and even result in tooth loss, but it can also have a negative impact on your jaws, resulting in TMD or TMJ, and it can ultimately even change the shape of your face.
Bruxism can greatly damage the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities and various sore spots. These places need to be fixed by a dentist, and if you are not able to wear a night guard throughout the night, some areas of the mouth may repeatedly lose a filling, causing them to have to be refilled multiple times.
This can also result in great tooth sensitivity, as when the enamel of the tooth is worn down, the layers that are closer to the root of the tooth become exposed. This can be especially uncomfortable when eating hot or cold foods.
Bruxism is not limited to adults. Up to one-third of children have a tendency to grind their teeth as well. Children who grind their teeth usually do so during two times in their childhood, when their first baby teeth emerge, and then when their permanent teeth start to come in. While most children can kick the habit of grinding their teeth once their teeth are fully in, some continue to suffer from bruxism.
Children most commonly grind their teeth while they are sleeping, rather than during the day. While it is not clear why some children grind their teeth, some possible causes are improperly aligned teeth and an under or over bite. Nutritional deficiencies, endocrine disorders, anxiety, and stress can also cause children to have bruxism.
What are Some Tips to Reduce Bruxism?
Wearing a properly fitted mouth guard at night is the best way to protect your teeth from the negative effects of grinding them throughout the night. However, it is also important to address the cause of the grinding.
Stress and anxiety are common causes of bruxism. While your dentist can prescribe a muscle relaxer to help calm you down during your sleep, it is also important to ask your doctor or dentist about how you can reduce your stress. This may begin with going to stress counseling, seeing a physical therapist, or beginning an exercise program.
It is also helpful to find some ways to help you relax before going to bed, such as taking a warm bath or listening to calming music. It is also important to minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption before going to sleep and limit screen time in the hours before going to sleep. Dim the lights while you are preparing to go to sleep to help increase your body's production of melatonin.
You can also train yourself to stop clenching your teeth, especially during the day. If you notice that you are clenching or grinding during the day, move the tip of your tongue, so it is positioned between your teeth. This will help train your jaw muscles to remain relaxed.
Help your jaw muscles relax in the evening by creating a warm compress and holding it against your cheek, directly in front of your earlobe. This will loosen the muscles and help to reduce their tendency to tighten throughout the night.
If your teeth grinding is a result of an underlying sleeping disorder, treating it can help reduce or eliminate bruxism altogether. Bruxism is not an uncommon problem, and there are several ways to reduce its effects on your oral health. It is best to consult a physician to try to find and treat the underlying cause of your bruxism.
About the Author
Dr. Marichia Attalla is a leading Periodontist in Nassau County, Long Island NY. Learn about periodontal treatments and services by visiting her website.