Perhaps you are unaware that you have this problem, but if you routinely wake with headaches, pain in your jaw or chipping of your tooth enamel, it may be that you suffer from bruxism or habitual grinding of the teeth.
Fundamentals Of Bruxism
Broadly speaking, tooth grinding is a problem that manifests itself at night. If you are afflicted by bruxism, you are probably grinding your teeth while sleeping and are thus not aware of the fact. According to New York cosmetic dentist Timothy Chase, it is often a person’s partner or spouse who first notices bruxism, as it produces a very unpleasant grinding noise. Parents of small children have often bristled upon making the startling discovery that their youngster is grinding his or her teeth. Once a mom or dad begins hearing the awful sound of tooth grinding, it is hard for them to imagine how serious damage is not being done each and every night. Thoughts immediately turn to why and how this behavior began.
The causes of bruxism in certain individuals remain unclear, though theories do abound. Cleveland Clinic dentist Karyn Kahn points to research suggesting that nighttime teeth grinding is controlled by a person’s central nervous system and is connected to things such as brain chemistry, sleep patterns, drug use, alcohol consumption and certain genetic factors. Some SSRI drugs used to treat depression have been linked to bruxism and the behavior has also been linked in some patients to high levels of stress and anxiety, personality and psychological makeup.
Bruxism is known to affect males and females in equal measure, and it is more frequently observed in children than adults. Roughly 8 percent of adults are impacted by bruxism, according to Aurelio Alonso DDS, Ph.D. of Case Western Reserve University, as are roughly 40 percent of kids under the age of 11.
Recognizing The Signs of Bruxism
Not surprisingly, the most typical symptom of bruxism is the act of grinding the teeth itself, though several secondary manifestations also tend to arise. Some frequent hallmarks of bruxism include headaches, jaw muscle swelling, worn tooth surfaces, tenderness at the temples, tongue indentations and pain during jaw movement.
With the passage of time, the impact of bruxism can be far-reaching if the condition is not effectively addressed. According to Washington D.C. cosmetic dentist Shila Yazdani, untreated bruxism can produce earaches, migraine headaches, congestion of the ears, tinnitus, temperature-sensitive teeth, loose teeth, jaw pain and more. The damage caused by tooth grinding can often be permanent in nature, warranting costly, uncomfortable and inconvenient dental restoration work. Bruxism can also cause chronic jaw and muscle pain and ultimately, depression.
If you are noticing the signs of bruxism, speak to your dental professional about designing a strategy to keep further complications at bay. While a cure for bruxism does not exist, treatments do exist which can reduce the negative effects on the jaw, muscles, and teeth.
Perhaps the most common treatment for chronic tooth grinding is for a patient to wear a custom-fitted mouthguard while sleeping. There are also medications intended to address nocturnal bruxism, though these are widely viewed as being of secondary priority and should be used only on a temporary basis. Most dental professionals emphasize the safety and effectiveness of mouth guards for the treatment of what can be an extremely frustrating and harmful condition.