What Is Bruxism & Why Do I Have It?
Have you ever been driving in bad weather and noticed that not only are your knuckles white on the steering wheel, but your jaw feels tight as well? Have you ever experienced an awkward conversation with a coworker or an in-law and realized that you’re clenching your teeth while trying to “hold your tongue” to not say anything? Most of us clench or grind our teeth occasionally, but some of us do it everyday and might not even know it.
When we’re awake, as in the aforementioned scenarios, teeth grinding is often caused by temporary anxiety. Prolonged stress can cause more regular clenching and grinding, while we’re awake or during sleep. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism, and it refers to involuntary and habitual grinding. It’s not medically dangerous, but it can damage your teeth. Having missing teeth, crooked teeth, or an otherwise abnormal bite can increase your likelihood of bruxism. A sleep disorder such as sleep apnea could also be a contributing factor.
How Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?
Persistent grinding wears teeth down, potentially weakening them to the point of being fractured. In some cases, the teeth don’t break but rather become loose, which can lead to tooth loss. Patients with broken, loose, or missing teeth need dental care, but chronic bruxism is also a threat to dental work that you have done. Fillings, dental crowns, and other dental restorations can be worn down or broken by intense grinding just like your natural teeth can be. In addition to these issues, bruxism can cause jaw pain, and it can cause or worsen TMD/TMJ. This jaw pain can lead to headaches, neck pain, and other serious discomfort, so teeth grinding can become quite a far-reaching problem that lowers a person’s quality of life if it’s not addressed.
What to Do About It.
Enough gloom and doom, though! If you’re dealing with bruxism, what can you do about it? Dr. Brace can fit you with a custom mouth guard. This will help protect your teeth and jaw while you sleep. If a sleeping disorder might be a contributing factor for you, Dr. Brace can consult with you and refer you to a specialist, if need be. While a night guard will address grinding, it won’t relieve stress. For stress relief, consider starting an exercise program, cutting back on caffeine, avoiding alcohol, or taking a little more time for you to do a hobby or simply relax. If you feel like you need more help to manage your stress, let us know or talk to your doctor. If you have a habit of chewing on ice, pens, or anything else that isn’t food, make a conscious effort to stop. If you can coach yourself out of such habits, you’ll help train your jaw out of habitual clenching.
If you think you might be grinding your teeth, call or email us today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brace.