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Do you find yourself grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw? Are people around you telling you that you are loudly grinding your teeth, even in your sleep? This habit is known as bruxism, where you grind your teeth, basically rubbing or sliding them across one another, and when you are clenching your jaws, you are repetitively biting down on your teeth. And this is in no relation to chewing food!

If you grind your teeth habitually, you may be unconsciously doing it during the day or in your sleep at night. It’s actually common to do this in your sleep. Research has shown that bruxing is one way your subconscious tries to lower stress levels in the body. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that a major way that people cope with stress is by grinding their teeth. It estimates that about 40 million Americans grind their teeth, and your dentist is likely very aware if you are doing it just by looking at the condition of your teeth and gums. Depending on the cause, bruxism may come and go on its own, especially in the case of children.

Stress and anxiety are the main reasons why you experience the muscle tension that leads you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth, and the Mayo Clinic found that people with unexpressed frustration and anger were more likely to clench and grind their teeth. Still, there can be a combination of factors involved such as psychological (anxiety and stress), physical (medications you are taking, medical conditions), genetic factors, or your lifestyle (smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive caffeine intake). These can all contribute to bruxism.

Long-Term Bruxism Damage

-Tooth pain or sensitivity
-Worn down tooth enamel exposing the dentin
-Chipped, flat, or loose teeth
-Broken fillings, microfractures and tooth nerve damage
-Loose teeth
-Gum pockets
-Bite damage on the tongue or to the cheek tissues
-A sore jaw or pain in the jaw
-Pain in the face or neck
-Pain behind the eyes, headaches or migraines
-Sore muscles or stiffness in the neck
-Back pain
-Pain in the ears including hearing loss
-Trouble sleeping, snoring and sleep apnea
-Changes in your facial structure

Diagnosis

Diagnosing bruxism may begin with an examination of your teeth, mouth and jaw, and may also involve a sleep lab to monitor the muscle activity with an EMG unit, or a biofeedback headband that monitors how many times you clench or grind your teeth in a night to reveal the severity of your bruxism.

Treatment

There are many treatment options. When it comes to helping your body and jaw during stressful situations, some approaches include managing your stress, performing mouth-jaw positioning exercises, biofeedback treatments, exercise, meditation, and taking a muscle relaxant before you go to sleep. A balanced diet, proper hydration and avoiding unhealthy coping strategies such as excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol, and smoking are also healthy approaches to stress management.

One of the most recommended treatments for bruxism is wearing a mouthguard/nightguard or splint over your teeth to prevent further damage to teeth and gums. Made of hard acrylic or soft materials, these appliances work by keeping your teeth separated.

Another option is reshaping the chewing surfaces of your teeth. If your bruxism is caused by bite and alignment issues with your lower or upper jaw, other options to correct the malocclusion include braces or jaw reconstruction.

If you think you have bruxism and would like more information, please give us a call today! Our team will be happy to schedule a consultation with our team to help you.