Dental Health Answers
Bruxism is the excessive clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. More severe cases of bruxism can cause jaw problems, tooth damage and even tooth loss, headaches, and other issues. Some people grind or clench their teeth in their sleep, which is considered a type of sleep related disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism
Tight or tired jaw muscles
Pain or soreness in the jaw or face
Dull headache originating in the temples
Sore and raw spots from chewing the insides of your cheeks
Increased tooth sensitivity
Worn tooth enamel, or teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
Grinding or clenching that your sleeping partner may be able to hear and may even wake them up
Any of the reasons above should prompt you to see Dr. Visanescu for her assessment of the condition.
Possible Causes of Bruxism
Doctors and dentists don’t know exactly what leads to bruxism, but many patients have reported the following physical or psychological issues:
Stress, anxiety, aggression, fear, or tension
Malocclusion, or the misalignment of the upper and lower jaws
In children, possible earache or teething
Acid reflux disease during sleep
Side effects from some medications, diseases or disorders
Presence of certain substances, including smoking, excessive drinking of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, abuse of drugs such as ecstasy or methamphetamine
Bruxism Evaluation and Treatment Options
If during an exam Dr. Visanescu, based on her visual and physical examination observes some of the warning signs of bruxism, she may ask you questions that indicate she may think you may be grinding or clenching your teeth. If these symptoms or conditions are recent, she may ask if you have been experiencing any stress or issues relating to your sleep. Dr. Visanescu may feel your jaw muscles, and ask you to open and close your jaw, as well as other diagnostic techniques.
There are several dental treatment approaches to treating bruxism and related dental problems:
Orthodontic Treatment – If malocclusion or misalignment of the jaw is causing the bruxism, Dr. Visanescu may refer you to see an orthodontist to see if orthodontic treatment such as dental braces may help to align the teeth and jaw and help relieve the bruxism.
Mouth Guards – Also known as a ‘night guard’, these appliances are either hard or soft, and are made in a dental lab using impressions of your teeth so they are custom fitted for you. Patients wear these night guards while they sleep to help cushion the teeth and relieve pressure on the jaw.
Other Dental Correction – If grinding and clenching has damaged the teeth, Dr. Visanescu may recommend restorative options such as crowns, or reshaping of the teeth. These restorative options are usually accompanied by a night guard to help protect the teeth and restorations.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
Severe bruxism may also lead to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, which can present with clicking and/or pain when opening and closing the jaw, and even the inability to partially or fully open or close the jaw.
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