Dental appointments are important not just to keep your mouth clean and cavity free, but to ensure that you do not suffer from potentially hazardous tooth, gum or bone ailments. It is always beneficial to see a dentist twice a year for a standard cleaning and thorough examination to make sure your mouth and surrounding tissue are healthy.
Sometimes, you may have a medical condition and not even know it! Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws. There are two different kinds of bruxism: day bruxism and sleep bruxism. The first occurs while you are awake, and may be attributed to stress, anxiety or it may just be a bad habit. Sleep bruxism occurs while you are in a deep sleep, and may including clenching of your jaw and gnashing of your teeth—all while you are sound asleep! Most people suffer with sleep bruxism, and many don’t even know they are doing it unless detected by their spouse or during a dental visit. Sometimes it is not diagnosed for years after considerable damage has already taken place. There are several underlying causes to why bruxism occurs so it is important to see your dentist on a regular basis, especially if you know you suffer from this affliction.
Sleep bruxism is deemed a sleep related movement disorder, much like restless leg syndrome. Generally, people who suffer from one or more sleep related movement disorders also either snore or have sleep apnea. Bruxism has also been attributed to Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, GERD, anxiety, depression, unmanaged stress, anger or frustration, as well as particular antidepressants and psychiatric medications. Or, it could be simply a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. Whatever the latent reason causing bruxism, it is important to make sure proper treatment is administered.
Many children have bruxism and it may be related to misaligned teeth, a response to pain such as an earache or teething, or caused by stress from situations such as a school test, the arrival of a new sibling, or a change in routine. This typically subsides when the pain or discomfort is relieved or the situation has been resolved as to no longer cause anxiety for the child. Bruxism may also occur in children who are hyperactive, children with medical conditions like asthma or upper airway infections or those taking certain medications. Research suggests that anxiety disorders and bruxism are directly related, causing the child to clench, grind or gnash their teeth while unconscious. Bruxism may go undetected with no adverse effects, but some children suffer headaches or earaches, worn tooth enamel, chipped teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, facial pain and jaw problems. It has been estimated that as many as 25 percent of children grind their teeth, which can cause additional problems later in life if not treated.
A dental professional can properly diagnose bruxism. Some signs you may have this condition include damage to your gums and teeth, as well as pain or soreness in the jaw or face, sensitivity to hot and cold items, teeth are chipped, or worn down as is the tooth enamel. You can also experience headaches, earaches and sore spots in your mouth from accidentally biting your cheeks. These are telltale signs to discuss with your dentist. Once a dental professional has diagnosed your bruxism, he or she can work with your physician to properly treat the condition. Together, they may diagnose one or more treatment plans, depending upon the severity of your bruxism and your specific needs. The most prevalent treatment for bruxism is a specialized nighttime mouth guard which is made to separate your teeth from grinding against one another. These are typically made of a heat-cured acrylic resin and are custom made by taking an impression of your teeth. Another option is to correct any misalignment to the teeth, usually by orthodontia or oral surgery, if necessary. If your bruxism is due to stress, anxiety or depression, you may be prescribed muscle relaxants by your doctor. Speak to your doctor about this option; the muscle relaxants can be habit forming and can have side effects. You may also find relief through stress management therapies including exercise, meditation, physical therapy, relaxation techniques or professional counseling. Biofeedback therapy is also helpful, especially if the teeth grinding is due to a behavioral issue. By utilizing a Biofeedback therapy, you can use to learn to control your body’s functions, such as your heart rate and essentially give your body “feedback” to help you make small changes in your habits, to achieve the results you want. By using your thoughts to control your body, it is believed that you can overcome bad habits or even certain ailments. Once you have explored the traditional options for treating bruxism, you may consider Botox injections. While Botox may not cure the problem, it may help to alleviate the muscle pain in your jaw and mouth. This option is best discussed with your doctor to determine if it will be an effective choice for your condition.
There are steps you can take to prevent teeth grinding while you sleep, including regular trips to the dentist. The dentist is your best resource on bruxism because he or she can monitor any changes in your teeth, especially if you have an advanced case. Additionally, reducing stress by exercise, yoga, meditation or counseling can be useful in curtailing the number of bruxism episodes. Another useful tip is to avoid anything that might help you to relax at night. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking and set the mood for sleep. Dim lighting, limit television viewing and avoid devices that emit blue light like phones, tablets and computers.
According to Dr. Johnson from dental clinic in Yukon– “While bruxism is not uncommon in both children and adults, it can be a very serious condition. There have been untreated cases where people have ground their teeth down to the nubs, or have damaged their teeth by forcibly cracking or chipping their teeth while grinding. If you believe you or your child may be suffering from Bruxism, it is important to meet with your dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.”