Don’t Let it Damage Your Smile!
“Help! I’ve been so stressed that I’ve been grinding my teeth.”
“Bruxism” is the dental term used to refer to teeth grinding. Most people are familiar with teeth grinding and clenching either from personal experience or from hearing a family member grinding their teeth during the night. Teeth grinding is considered an involuntary or unconscious response from the nervous system. What that means is that the teeth grinding usually happens automatically on its own, and most often during sleep. Most people are usually not aware that they are grinding or clenching their teeth until they begin experiencing other related symptoms.
How’s Your Bite?
The main cause of chronic teeth grinding is often the abnormal alignment of the upper jaw with the lower jaw. This abnormal alignment or malocclusion causes the lower jaw to be very uncomfortable in this position. As a result, the nervous system automatically stimulates the movement of the lower jaw through grinding to relieve the lower jaws position. During the day, the jaws are usually in motion through talking and eating, but during sleep time they are not. Therefore, the body intervenes to cause movement (grinding) of the lower jaw.
Stress is not the cause of teeth grinding. However, stress can aggravate any pre-existing condition where the upper and lower jaw are not relating well. Some of the symptoms that are often related to teeth grinding are:
- Waking up with headaches and muscular pain and tension in the face, head and neck area.
- Ear aches that are not due to ear infections or other concerns
- Unexplained facial pain radiating to the ear
- Wearing away of tooth structure and enamel
- Increased teeth and gum sensitivity
- Increased incidence of broken fillings and teeth
- Pain in the Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ)
Protect Your Teeth from Irreversible Damage
If you are grinding your teeth or suspect that you may be, you should visit an oral health care professional for an examination and diagnosis. Often, the initial treatment of bruxism/grinding of teeth involves having a special mouthgaurd made. The mouthgaurd is made of a soft plastic material and is to be worn during sleep. Its main function is to act as a cushion between the upper and lower jaws/teeth. Wearing the mouthgaurd helps to reduce muscle tension in the face, head and neck areas. It also helps to reduce the wearing away (attrition) of the teeth. Reducing stress and other emotions such as anxiety and anger will also help to reduce the stimuli that may aggravate teeth grinding. Visiting a massage therapist will help manage and alleviate the muscular tension associated with teeth grinding.
If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, visit an oral health care professional for a proper diagnosis. Your teeth are precious – take the steps to protect them now and for life!