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What is bruxism?

If you grind your teeth or clench your jaws constantly, you have a habit known as bruxism.  It is estimated that bruxism affects up to 10% of the population.  Bruxism can be present in both children and adults.  Bruxism can occur during sleep when you are not aware of it and during the day when you may be aware of it.  Some people constantly clench or grind their teeth during the day, without being aware of it.  If bruxism occurs during the day when the person is awake, usually there is no grinding of the teeth, instead they are usually clenching their teeth.  Those who grind their teeth or clench while asleep usually have other sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea and snoring.  Sleep apnea occurs where there are pauses in breathing during sleep.  Sometimes the person may not be aware that they are clenching or grinding their teeth if it usually occurs during sleep.  Often times, a spouse will hear the grinding and notify the person.  It is important to recognize the signs and speak to your dentist.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Clenching or teeth grinding (may be loud enough to affect others who are nearby)
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Jaw pain or jaw soreness
  • Flattened, loose or chipped teeth
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Worn down tooth enamel, on the biting surface that shows other layers of the tooth
  • Tense jaw muscles
  • Pain near the ear area
  • Dull headache in the temple area
  • Marks on your tongue
  • A locked jaw that will not open or close fully

What causes it?

Certain medications may cause bruxism. Anti-depressants, some recreational drugs, and disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s, and severe anxiety can all lead to grinding and clenching of teeth.

Possible causes may include:

  • Stress, anxiety, anger, frustration
  • Uneven alignment of teeth
  • Sleep apnea
  • Side effects of certain antidepressants
  • Disorder such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s

How is it treated?

Those with mild symptoms do not always need treatment. For those with severe and frequent bruxism, it can lead to constant headaches, jaw disorders, worn or damaged teeth, damage to dental restorations, TMJ issues and other issues.

Your dentist may suggest mouthguards to help.  These keep teeth separated to avoid the damage due to clenching and grinding. They are usually made of acrylic and fit over your teeth. Correcting misaligned teeth may help in cases where there is a dental cause.  Since stress and anxiety may also be factors, seeking ways to lower or manage stress can also be beneficial if they are contributing factors.

If you believe you grind or clench your teeth or if you are suffering from any of the symptoms, contact us now.

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