Bruxism is the condition in which you clench, gnash, or grind your teeth. If you have this condition, you may sometimes clench your teeth throughout the day, or you may grind your teeth in your sleep.
Sleep bruxism is said to be a sleep-related movement disorder. People who clench or grind their teeth while they are sleeping are more apt to have sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
If your bruxism is mild, it may not need treatment. However, bruxism may be severe enough to cause jaw disorders, headaches, and damage to the teeth. If you have sleep bruxism, you are probably unaware of it until it starts to cause other problems. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and when to see your dentist.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Symptoms of bruxism can include:
- Teeth grinding that is so loud it wakes you or your partner up at night
- Teeth that have become fractured, chipped, loose, or flattened
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain or soreness
- Tight or tired jaw muscles
- Pain like an earache, but it’s actually not coming from your ear
- Dull ache in the temples
- Damage from biting the inside of your cheek
- Indents on your tongue
When to See Your Dentist
You need to see your dentist as soon as possible if you notice your teeth are worn, damaged, or sensitive. Also see your dentist if you have pain in your jaw, ear, or face. If your partner tells you that you grind your teeth in your sleep, see your dentist. If you experience a locked jaw that won’t open or close all the way, see your dentist. If you notice that your child is grinding their teeth or has any other signs of bruxism, be sure to mention it to your dentist at the child’s next visit.
Possible Causes of Bruxism
It’s not totally understood what causes bruxism. There are possible physical changes that include abnormal alignment of the upper or lower teeth (malocclusion), response to the pain of an earache (in children), or complications from a disorder such as Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s Disease.
Possible psychological causes include anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, tension, an aggressive or competitive personality type, sleep apnea, side effects of psychiatric medications like antidepressants, or a coping mechanism or focusing habit.
Exam and Diagnosis
Normally, your dentist looks for signs of bruxism as part of your regular checkup. If your dentist suspects you have bruxism, they will ask you several questions to try to determine the cause. The dentist will ask you about your health in general and if you are on any medications. They will also ask you about your daily routine and sleep habits.
Your dentist will check to see if you have tenderness in your jaw muscles. They will also look for abnormalities like missing or broken teeth and poor alignment of your teeth. They will also look at tooth damage and the underlying bone with the help of x-rays.
This exam may also detect other disorders that can cause similar pain such a TMJ (temporomandibular joint), other dental issues, or an ear infection.
If you or your child has bruxism, your dentist will suggest different ways to help preserve and improve your teeth.
Splints and mouth guards are made to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by grinding and clenching. They may be made of plastic, acrylic, or a softer material to fit over your lower and upper teeth.
Correcting teeth that are not aligned properly may help if your bruxism is dental related. In severe cases, where tooth damage and sensitivity restricts your ability to chew properly, your dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or apply crowns. In some cases, you might need braces or oral surgery.
If your bruxism is suspected to be sleep related, your dentist will refer you to your primary care doctor or a sleep specialist.
If you are experiencing jaw pain, ear pain, or tooth pain or sensitivity, you need to consult your dentist as soon as possible. At Simply Smiles Dentistry, we can provide the care you need to be free from the pain and damage that your bruxism has caused you.
Until next time…Keep on Smiling!