Stress has become a norm in our day to day life. The result this stress could be grinding your teeth or clenching your jaws. The term used to explain this phenomenon is called bruxism. Teeth grinding and clenching are common habits, but that doesn't mean they are harmless. Stresses from the powerful forces generated by grinding and clenching can wear down teeth or even loosen them.
A large population suffers from bruxism or teeth grinding. Some people may be aware as they might do this consciously during the day, but often it happens at night while you are asleep.
Why do we grind or clench our teeth?
The most common reason for grinding/clenching habits is stress, which can affect our health in various ways. Some people experience stomach pain or skin breakouts; bruxing is yet another manifestation. Teeth grinding is caused not just by stress and anxiety but also by sleep disorders, missing teeth, crooked teeth, and other bite problems. Using stimulating substances such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs can also put you at risk. Additionally, teeth grinding is believed to be an uncommon side effect of certain medications.
What are the most common symptoms of teeth grinding?
The noise from grinding and clenching may also disturb your spouse’s sleep if loud enough. Even if you have experienced some of these signs and symptoms, you may not realize you are a bruxer, particularly if your habit is nocturnal, as is often the case. Yet the evidence of tooth damage may become obvious during your regular checkup and cleaning.
Grinding and clenching can wear down your teeth from this repeated rubbing action and may become sensitive to hot or cold or even loosen them. Dental work such as crowns and fillings may get damaged. Bruxism can also lead to teeth that are painful or loose, jaw soreness, muscle pain in the neck and/or headaches. Grinding can lead to fracture of enamel, wear down teeth so they become short in length over time, or irritate your gums.
What can be done?
Dentist at Gainesville Dental Arts can help you break the habit, relieve any pain you are experiencing, and repair any damage to your teeth or dental work.
Sometimes simply becoming aware of the habit can help you to get it under control. In some cases, your dentist may recommend taking a muscle relaxant before bedtime. If stress is the cause you need to find a healthy way to relax. Meditation, counseling and exercise, listening to relaxing music, or a warm bath may help can all help reduce stress and anxiety. Your teeth will be monitored over time at the dental office to make sure the problem is not worsening.
If damage to your teeth or existing dental work is evident, we may recommend a custom-made night guard, also known as an “occlusal guard,” may be recommended. A night guard is a thin transparent device that is worn over the biting surface of your teeth at night. It is very similar to a mouth guard worn by athletes. The night guard provides a barrier between your top and bottom teeth while you sleep. All night guards are made of comfortable plastic, are custom fitted to allow proper breathing. It also helps protect your jaw joints from excessive force.
If a bite problem exists where some teeth are hitting before the others (all of your teeth should hit at the same time), it can sometimes be treated by removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth that is sticking up a bit (and therefore receiving too much force) to bring it in line with the others. This is known as a bite adjustment. If your malocclusion (bad bite) is more serious, orthodontics might be recommended. Replacing any teeth that are missing can also help stabilize your bite by inhibiting the shifting of teeth that occurs when extra space is left open by missing teeth.
A word about kids: Teeth grinding is very common in children, especially when they are shedding their baby teeth. Since they often outgrow it by adolescence, treatment is not usually recommended. Although in adults teeth grinding is often the result of stress, the same is not always true with children. Other possible causes of teeth grinding in children include irritation in the mouth, allergies, and misaligned teeth. If you observe your child grinding his or her teeth, ask Dr. Kaur about the potential causes and, if necessary, the possible solutions.
The Night Guard Fitting Process
- Impressions are taken of your upper and lower teeth to confirm an accurate and custom fit.
- Impressions are used as a mold, to fabricate the night guard by the lab out of strong, durable plastic like material which is hard on the outside and soft on the inside for maximum comfort.
- After the night guard is received from the lab, it is tried in your mouth to ensure the adequate fit and comfort.
- A night guard is to be worn while you sleep every night and may also be worn during the day if advised by the dentist.
Benefits of a Night Guard
- Prevents teeth grinding there by prevents damage to the teeth and its supporting structures
- Prevents migraine pain
- Prevents tension-type headache pain
- Can help prevent jaw disorders by relieving pressure
- Prevents and the development of TMD (temporomandibular disorder)
Don't live with painful migraines and headaches. Contact Gainesville Dental Arts Team at 703-743-2324 and learn how a night guard can help you.