All of us seem to be very busy with work, family, responsibilities and the stress can be overwhelming at times. I, as a dentist, am seeing an epidemic of clenching and grinding of teeth with my patients.
Clenching is when the teeth are held tightly against each other, sometimes for long periods of time. Grinding is sliding your teeth back and forth over each other. The clinical term is called bruxism.
Bruxism can happen with children and adults, although it’s generally not treated in childhood. Bruxism can be silent or can make a loud grating sound. People with bruxism may wake themselves up with the loud sounds of grinding, or the grinding can be so loud that others may hear it.
People who suffer from bruxism can experience the following symptoms:
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Frequent toothaches
- Sensitive teeth
- Worn or cracked teeth
- Facial pain
- Trauma or marks on sides of the tongue
- Trouble sleeping
What causes bruxism?
The jaw is comprised of a double joint called the temporomandibular joint in close proximity to the skull separated by a disc and fluid. Muscles also play a role in opening and closing of the jaw. These muscles of mastication include the masseter muscles, temporalis muscles, and the lateral pterygoids. Patients having jaw pain sometimes say they have TMJ. TMJ is the temporomandibular joint. Disorders of the joint are called TMD.
Stress, sleep disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, and your bite play a role. What causes grinding may not be known for sure.
Bruxism can be identified by the symptoms described above and the wear patterns evidenced on the teeth. These include wear facets and enamel wear on the biting surfaces of the teeth, short flat teeth, enamel loss at the base of teeth called abfraction.
Early identification with regular visits to the dentist can help minimize the damage to your teeth as well as repair your teeth to prevent further damage.
How is bruxism treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of the problem. Generally, I recommend a nightguard to be worn while sleeping as the first step. Nightguards are custom-fit by your dentist and come in a variety of designs depending on the symptoms. The most common types I recommend are the full occlusal guard, covering all upper or lower teeth to prevent contact, and the NTI. The NTI is an FDA-approved device proven to reduce migraine headaches. Nightguards help by putting your jaw in the most restful relaxed position, disabling the muscles of mastication while physically preventing contact of the teeth. Other treatments I suggest, in conjunction with the nightguard, may include use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen), soft diet, hot and cold compresses, stress reduction techniques, physical therapy, and dental treatment to repair damaged teeth. Severe cases may involve a TMD specialist, orthodontist and oral surgery.
Together we can manage bruxism by paying attention to symptoms, having regular dental visits and talking to your dentist.
If you struggle with bruxism or have other questions related to teeth grinding (or your dental health), please make an appointment to come see us at Star Smiles Family Dental 614-951-9517. We’ll do an exam and address your concerns.