Bruxism, or tooth-grinding, can cause major damage to the teeth, contributing to tooth and jaw pain, decay, and other oral health problems. This can be a difficult issue to address if you grind your teeth in your sleep, but with some help from your dentist, you can find a treatment that protects your teeth from damage.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term for tooth clenching and grinding, habits that some people adopt in response to stress. Bruxism doesn't always cause problems, but over time can cause loss of tooth enamel, leading to weakened or sensitive teeth, tooth fractures, and tooth decay. Some people also have additional issues such as headaches, earache, jaw pain and tenderness, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. These develop because clenching and grinding the teeth puts pressure on the jaw muscles and other tissues.
Bruxism is typically something that people do without being aware of it. If you know that you grind your teeth when you’re awake, it's possible to consciously change this habit over time by making a conscious effort to hold your jaw in a relaxed position. In the relaxed position, your jaw should hang slightly open, with your teeth touching only when you swallow.
The problem is, some people grind their teeth while they're asleep, when it's not possible to consciously try to alter the habit. Many people only find out they have sleep bruxism because of the symptoms they experience. When this is the case, there are some other things you can try to stop clenching or grinding your teeth.
Seeking Treatment for Bruxism
Night guards are dental devices that you wear at night. They’re similar to a sports mouthguard but are made from a softer plastic material. When worn, the night guard prevents contact between your upper and lower teeth and reduces the pressure caused by tooth grinding.
People who grind their teeth tend to have worse symptoms if their teeth are misaligned because this contributes to uneven levels of pressure being applied to the teeth. For this reason, correcting tooth alignment problems can help alleviate the symptoms of bruxism for some people.
If your teeth have been badly damaged by bruxism—to the point where they need to be restored or replaced—then it’s important that the tooth restorations your dentist provides have a high level of durability. Grinding and clenching are very hard on the teeth, so your restorations must be able to stand up to wear and tear damage.
Prevent Problems Before They Occur
In the long term, bruxism can contribute to major tooth damage and other potentially serious problems. However, by treating the cause of the problem quickly, it’s possible to prevent tooth damage and TMJ issues to ensure that tooth grinding doesn’t affect your oral health.