There are times in everyone’s life when they want to clench or grind their teeth together. You might be frustrated with your job or the kids might be driving you crazy. But, if you grind your teeth without realizing it, whether awake or asleep, you might be causing considerable damage to your teeth and gums. After a period of time, you might need to replace one or more of your teeth due to your grinding habit.
If you suffer from bruxism, you either clench your teeth together, meaning you clamp down with your jaw, pushing the tops of your teeth together, or you grind your teeth, meaning there is some back and forth movement. You can clench or grind your teeth while fully awake or you might do it as you sleep. If you’re a nighttime grinder, you have sleep-related or nocturnal bruxism.
Bruxism is pretty common in the U.S. Up to 40 million people are thought to grind or clench their teeth. The condition is fairly common in kids, too, and affects up to 30 percent of children. In the majority of cases, kids with bruxism outgrow it.
Why You Might Do It
A number of factors can cause bruxism, from stress to medication. It can be related to your personality type, if you’re generally more high strung or aggressive, you might be more likely to clench your teeth, for example. It can also be connected to another disease or condition, such as Parkinson’s disease. Bruxism can also be caused by teeth that don’t fit together properly or by other dental issues.
How to Know If You Grind
Some people grind or clench their teeth and don’t even know it. The symptoms can be very obvious or not present at all. If you share a room or bed with a partner and grind at night, he or she might complain about a loud noise.
You might notice some pain in the facial or jaw area if you regularly grind or clench your teeth. Dull headaches are also common in people with bruxism. If you clench your teeth regularly, you might start to see some changes in your jawline. Constantly clenching your teeth tenses and strengthens the jaw, meaning that you might see some swelling in that area.
The Impact On Your Teeth
Over time, grinding and clenching can cause plenty of wear and tear on your teeth. In extreme cases, you might chip a tooth or break a tooth. Less extreme effects on your teeth include greater sensitivity and worn-out enamel. The top surface of your teeth might become flatter or significantly worn down.
Treatment for bruxism depends on the cause of the grinding or clenching. If you’re under a lot of stress, talking to a counselor or participating in therapy can help relieve symptoms. Certain anti-anxiety medicines can also help reduce high levels of stress or anxiety.
You can also try to learn ways to relax on your own. Yoga or meditation might help. Some people find that listening to soothing music is also helpful. It’s often recommended that you avoid stimulating substances, such as caffeine, if you have bruxism. It’s also a good idea to limit or avoid alcohol.
Putting ice on the jaw or face can help relieve any pain related to teeth grinding. Massage can also help ease discomfort or reduce the tension that is causing you to clench your teeth.
If you have nocturnal bruxism, you might want to see a dentist to have a special mouth guard created to protect your teeth at night. You can purchase a mouth guard over-the-counter, but one provided by your dentist will be custom fit to your mouth and might provide a better result. Your dentist can also correct any misalignment in your mouth if your grinding is related to crooked teeth.
Implants and Replacements
Once you have your bruxism under control, you might need to consider dental implants to replace any teeth that have been worn down or damaged. Bruxism can also damage replacement teeth, so replacing damaged teeth isn’t a treatment for the condition itself. A dentist who specializes in implants or replacement teeth can evaluate your mouth and let you know what your options are.
Bruxism can be a nuisance that causes severe tooth damage. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with it or the damage it causes. To learn more about teeth grinding, how to prevent it, and how to replace any damaged teeth, contact Dr. John Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas at their Miami implant dentistry practice today. To schedule an appointment, call (305) 447-1447.