Everybody experiences some level of stress in their lives and how anxiety is handled deeply affects the body. Some people develop obvious health concerns, such as high blood pressure or stomach conditions, while others fight a more silent battle. They wake up with a headache, jaw pain, ear pain, and maybe unusual indentations on the tongue. But they don’t understand why.
These are all symptoms of an underlying and often very painful medical condition called bruxism where people grind and clench their teeth, even when sleeping. While occasional grinding of the teeth doesn’t cause too much harm, consistent grinding can cause long-term damage to your smile.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism can be defined as a medical condition where you gnash, grind or clench your teeth during the day or night, or both. Mild bruxism doesn’t typically require treatment, but if the grinding of teeth is consistent enough, it can lead to serious jaw disorders, tooth fractures, tooth sensitivity, loss of dental restorations or crowns and other health issues. While bruxism is often brought on by stress, it’s important to note it can also be the result of crooked teeth or an abnormal bite.
Who is affected?
Both children and adults can exhibit symptoms of bruxism although experts say children are more likely to outgrow it by adolescence. It is believed that teeth-grinding is hereditary and is most common with adults between the ages of 20 and 40. Bruxism also may be related to gender as three times as many women grind their teeth than men.
How do I know if I grind my teeth at night?
You may wake up with chronic face pain but are unaware that you have been grinding your teeth in your sleep. Ask a family member if you are making any abnormal sounds with your teeth when you sleep and share your concerns with your dentist. He or she can make that determination with a simple examination.
How does this condition harm your teeth?
In addition to the severe pain bruxism can cause, grinding your teeth also wears away important tooth enamel. This can lead to more sensitive teeth and ultimately, harmful tooth decay. It can also loosen dental work and fracture teeth. And if the grinding is severe and prolonged, it may prove taxing on muscles and joints of the temporomandibular (jaw) and even cause osteoarthritis and bone loss.
How do I find relief?
Depending on the severity of your bruxism, your dentist may suggest a protective dental appliance, such as a splint, or a mouth guard to help prevent further damage to your teeth. A hard acrylic splint fits over your upper or lower teeth and is made to fit your mouth specifically. Mouthguards, which are often softer than splints, can also provide relief. They can be made to patient specifications or purchased over-the-counter.
If you grind your teeth as the result of stress or anxiety, you might want to look into relaxation strategies. Find what works best for you, whether it’s counseling, meditation or maybe exercise to help you relax. Try to find a way to unwind at the end of the day by taking a warm bath or reading a book.
If your dentist determines your bruxism is the result of dental issues such as misaligned teeth, it may be beneficial to use crowns or overlays to reshape the surface of your teeth to correct the wear.
Please contact Cambridge Family Dentistry for a free consultation if you have any questions or concerns regarding the diagnosis and/or treatment of bruxism.
Please contact us by calling:
(316) 687-2110 or toll-free (877) 687-2110.
We look forward to meeting you.
The Cambridge Family Dentistry clinic is located at 2020 N. Webb Road in Wichita, Kansas