A Guide To Bruxism
Bruxism is the name for the condition of teeth grinding. This is often a tension-related condition brought on by stress. Unfortunately, it can also have a major impact on your dental health.
It doesn't matter whether you grind your teeth consciously when you're awake, or unconsciously when you're awake or asleep. The damage to the teeth and jaw is the same. Tooth damage comes from the constant grinding movement, which slowly erodes away the tooth enamel. This can make damage like cracking and cavities more likely. Grinding can also dislodge or damage fillings and crowns or other dental installations such as braces or bridges.
Grinding affects more than the teeth. Tension can develop in the jaw muscles, which can present as ongoing low-grade headaches, migraines, or jaw and neck pain. Over time, the TMJ joints can begin to degrade due to constant grinding, which will lead to severe jaw pain and difficulty opening and closing the mouth. Not only will this effect everyday life, but it can make some dental procedures more difficult as it becomes harder to hold the mouth open for any period of time.
Signs of Grinding
Since most grinding behavior happens unconsciously, you may be unaware that you do it unless a partner notices it while you are sleeping. Your dentist can often spot the damage on your teeth, though, as the eroding scars on the enamel from bruxism are fairly obvious to trained eyes.
Other signs of grinding may also be obvious to you. If you often wake up with a headache or tension in the jaw, for example, you are very likely grinding your teeth in your sleep. You may also experience tooth sensitivity, particularly in the rear molars, or an earache-like pain that doesn't quite originate from the ear. Many grinders also end up chewing on the inside of their cheeks, so you may also frequently have issues with sore cheeks or internal cheek damage.
Fortunately, you don't have to live with bruxism because there are treatment options. Initial treatment may include stress reduction exercises or medications. Your dentist may also prescribe a custom fitted mouth guard to help prevent grinding and protect the teeth if you do grind.
Treatment of the damage caused is also necessary. This can include repairing damaged surfaces with crowns or dental bonding. Medication may be prescribed to help relieve the pain and tension caused by advanced damage to the TMJ joints, as well.
Talk to your family dentist if you suspect that teeth grinding is impacting your dental health.