Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, medically called bruxism. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.
Bruxism: Signs and Symptoms
The habit of grinding, gnashing, grating, or clenching the teeth is termed bruxism, and millions of adults and children are affected by this condition. While its exact cause is unknown, most experts believe that bruxism can occur as a response to increased psychological stress.
Bruxism involves any type of forceful contact between the teeth, whether silent and clenching, or loud and grating. Estimates vary regarding the number of people who suffer from this condition and range from 50%-95% of the adult population. Approximately 15% of all children also acquire this condition. Many people are not aware that they have this condition because they grind their teeth at night while asleep, although bruxism can occur during daytime hours as well.
Certain sleep disorders are accompanied by bruxism. Drinking alcohol and taking certain medications (for example, antidepressants) may worsen the bruxism. Malocclusion (improper alignment of the teeth) may also play a causative role or may determine the severity of symptoms related to bruxism. Children may develop bruxism as a response to a cold or other infection and are more likely to develop it when their parents are affected. Some studies show that persons whose personalities may be described as compulsive, controlling, precise, or aggressive have an increased incidence of bruxism.
Learn more about bruxism symptoms and signs »
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Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?
Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.
How Do I Find Out if I Grind My Teeth?
Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.
If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.
Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?
In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.
Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, result in hearing loss, cause or worsen TMD/TMJ, and even change the appearance of your face.
What Can I Do to Stop Grinding My Teeth?
Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.
Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:
- Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
Call your Issaquah Cosmetic dentist Dr. Kelley Fisher today to see how we can help?