MOST PEOPLE GRIND OR CLENCH their teeth for a moment when irritated. That level of tooth contact isn’t really something to worry about. It’s when it’s done far more often, even without realizing it (eg during sleep), that it can potentially become a serious problem. The medical term for this type of tooth-grinding is bruxism.
Sleep bruxism can happen as a side-effect, not limited to: snoring and sleep apnea, and awake bruxism (or diurnal bruxism) can happen as a side-effect of stress in your daily life. However, not everyone with a sleep disorder or a stressful life has bruxism, and not everyone with bruxism has a sleep disorder or a ton of stress. Another reason is poor bite alignment.
Because there are multiple possible causes, treatment can be tricky. Drs Hill and Schneidmiller will focus on the symptoms and minimizing the damage as well as treating the underlying condition. There are a number of other symptoms that can occur with bruxism:
Sore jaw (with sleep bruxism, the jaw is sore in the morning, whereas with awake bruxism, it gets worse throughout the day)
Near daily headaches
Thick, strong jaw muscles
Shifting teeth, shifting bite
Flattened chewing surfaces on back teeth
Exposed yellow areas at gumlines and increased sensitivity
Loose or lost teeth
WHAT TO DO:
There are a variety of treatments to either reduce the grinding or the damage it causes.
You can become more aware of your clenching/grinding habits and consciously work to stop. This one works better when you have awake bruxism than sleep bruxism, because it’s obviously much harder to control your jaw muscles in your sleep. Drs Hill and Schneidmiller can assist you with this.
Dr Hill and Dr Schneidmiller recommend moist heat on both sides of the face at the jawline for 1 minute before and after bedtime to encourage relaxation of muscles.
WEARING A MOUTHGUARD
A mouthguard or splint serves as a pillow between your upper and lower teeth. It won’t stop the grinding, but it protects your teeth from damage.
MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED BY YOUR DOCTOR
Muscle relaxant medication by prescription might help you unclench while you sleep. However, if other treatments are helping then medication may not ever be needed.
Check out this video for more information and a few other ideas on how to combat bruxism or minimize the damage:
We Can Help!
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be due to bruxism and you should schedule an appointment so we can make a plan for how to address it. You don’t want to leave it untreated until it gets to the point where it’s damaging your teeth.
WE LOVE OUR PATIENTS!
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.