Dental Care

Bruxism - Problem and Treatment


Did you know that the word bruxism describes a behavior and not necessarily a condition? It means the grinding of the teeth, and it can happen at any time of the day or night.

For example, your teeth grinding might be caused by anxiety or stress, it might be due to a poorly aligned bite pattern, and it could even be tied to some sort of neurological disorder of your facial muscles.

What this means is that almost everyone will experience teeth grinding at some time or another, but it is those who deal with it on a constant or chronic basis who have a major problem at hand. This is because bruxism of the molars leads to a long list of serious problems.

More on Bruxism

Those who periodically "brux" will endure the discomfort of the experience and may get a temporary headache from the pressure the behavior induces (generally believed to be around 600 pounds per square inch!).

They may not have to deal with the same consequences as those dealing with regular bouts of teeth grinding. People who grind their teeth throughout the day or night will tend to experience the following symptoms:

  • Broken or fractured teeth -  this is the most obvious symptom that you have too much bruxism going on, and it can lead to a lot of problems. First of all, any fractures in a tooth will expose it to decay – even if the tooth already has a filling in place. When you actually break the tooth, you may be at risk for tooth death or loss as well. This can lead to costly repairs such as crowns and caps or even dental implants to retain the integrity of the jaw;
  • Unnatural wearing of teeth – our jaws and teeth form a natural alignment known as our bite pattern. When we grind our teeth to an extensive degree we wear down the teeth and can even shift them in the jaw. This leads to a change in the bite pattern which is a primary cause for jaw pain, additional grinding, neck and head pain, and difficult with speaking and chewing;
  • Exacerbation of tooth sensitivity – when we grind our teeth we compress the nerves and blood vessels that they contain. This makes the teeth more sensitive than they should be, and the compression can also impact the strength of the enamel and the dentin too. This means that the entire tooth can tend to experience much stronger sensitivity from persistent grinding;
  • Receding gums – when we grind our teeth we cause them to actually flex at their bases. This leads to micro-fracturing of the enamel at the gum line. This leads to some serious irritation of the gum tissue and eventually the death of this tissue. This causes the gums to recede and exposes the teeth to even more trouble such as gingivitis;
  • Irritation to the lining of the mouth – someone who is a chronic tooth grinder will actually develop a tough fleshy ridge along the inside of their cheek. This ridge tends to line up perfectly with the location where their teeth come together. In fact, some people with serious bruxism might even bite their own skin to such an extent that they create a permanent scar;
  • Periodontal issues – bruxism is also known to reduce the amount of supporting bone around the teeth. This exposes the roots to the development of pockets that are prone to infection and the development of abscesses; and
  • General soreness of muscles – creating all of that pressure in the jaws and teeth actually requires a lot of muscle work. This clenching and tightening of muscles not normally designed to function in such an extreme manner leads to a lot of soreness. This is often also associated with the sensation of “referred pain”. For instance, people who do a lot of grinding tend to develop what they think is an ear ache, but which is in fact the result of the muscular use in their face, jaw or neck.

So, we know that bruxism describes an extreme level of gnashing and grinding of the teeth. We also know that it can most often be identified through such symptoms as those described above. The big question then is “how is it treated?”

Treatment

The answer to that question is actually as diverse as the symptoms most often associated with the behavior. For example, if you suddenly develop some of the symptoms listed above, you may want to visit your dentist.

They will be able to look at your teeth and ask you the most appropriate questions necessary to identify the underlying cause of the behavior.

This might mean that they ask you about the level of stress or anxiety in your life, whether or not you are sleeping and eating well, how much exercise you do each day, and if there are any issues that might be causing you to feel disturbed or distressed.

Just consider that one woman learned that she had developed very severe night time bruxism because her neighbors were doing a bit of renovation in the late evening hours and she could only faintly detect the sounds of their equipment. The frustration this caused led her to begin grinding her teeth, but once the project was done, the behavior stopped!

A dentist will be able to help you to figure out what the cause of the bruxism might be, and even if no final answer is determined, they can then help to institute a plan to alleviate the side effects.

For instance, they might see that you are damaging your teeth and will create a dental guard that prevents the teeth from coming together. Although this doesn't reduce the pressure or the muscular tension, it will eliminate most of the damages done to teeth that are persistently ground against one another.

In addition to a night guard, a dentist might tell you that you need to find a way to reduce psychological stress.

This could be something as simple as an hour of exercise or as intense as counseling and daily meditation, but either way you better be taking steps to end bruxism thus preventing further damage done to your teeth, jaws and muscles.

 

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