What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the technical name for teeth grinding, clenching the jaw, or the “lock jaw” that sometimes happens to people as they sleep or concentrate. It can happen while sleeping or while awake; consciously or without knowing it; to adults as well as to children. It's more common than many imagine... and, thankfully, it’s also easy to treat.
Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw is more than nervous habits to be ignored; such acts can mean serious problems for oral health, including excessive tooth wear and/or the development of Temporomandibular joint – or TMJ – syndrome. One of the simplest and best solutions is to see a dental professional about wearing a custom-made mouthguard specifically designed to reduce teeth grinding.
Causes and Effects of Bruxism
The primary causes of bruxism are stress and anxiety. At first, a person may be conscious of doing this (if they're awake), but over time, the physical activity itself becomes a habit. Once the clenching and grinding are automatic, they are hard to stop.
What are the signs of bruxism? Common symptoms include sore jaw muscles or joints, sore teeth, dull headaches, and restless sleep. The results can be painful and even debilitating, not to mention unattractive. Severe jaw pain, damaged teeth, and loss of hearing are both short and long-term results of bruxism that, if let go too long, can result in expensive dental repairs, including crowns, bridges and implants, and hearing aids to accommodate any hearing loss.
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Mouth Guard to the Rescue
The simplest solution for preventing damage to teeth from bruxism is the use of a professionally made mouth guard. If you detect any of the warning signs mentioned above, then tell your dentist that you believe that you (or maybe a family member) is grinding their teeth or clenching the jaw.
Thankfully, if you are unaware of the habit, your dentist may notice it during your oral exam. Excessive wear on the back molars and enamel loss both indicate bruxism, and both are signs your dentist will look for.A mouth guard for teeth grinding is a custom-fitted oral appliance that is made of plastic. This type of mouthguard is worn during sleep and prevents the teeth from scraping against each other. By addressing bruxism early with professional treatment, you can prevent widespread damage to your teeth.
A mouth guard for teeth grinding is a custom-fitted oral appliance that is made of plastic. This type of mouthguard is worn during sleep and prevents the teeth from scraping against each other. By addressing bruxism early with professional treatment, you can prevent widespread damage to your teeth.
Unfortunately, if you've waited too long to address any of the symptoms of bruxism, in addition to prescribing a mouth guard, your dentist may have to restore damaged teeth with crowns or fillings to improve oral function and maintain the proper shape and size of the teeth.
Not just for Adults - Defining What is Bruxism to Children
About 30% of children grind or clench their teeth; in particular, children under age five. If you suspect that your child is grinding or clenching his or her teeth, don't hesitate to discuss the problem with your family dentist. Most children eventually outgrow bruxism and suffer no permanent damage to their teeth, but it's better, of course, to err on the side of precaution.
Of all children between the ages of 3 and 10 who experience bruxism, more than half will stop on their own by age 13. In teenagers and adults, how long bruxism lasts depends on its cause. For example, bruxism can last for many years if it is related to stress that doesn't go away. However, if bruxism is being caused by a dental problem, it should stop when the teeth are repaired and realigned. Often this occurs within a few dental visits.
Certainly, a mouth guard is a good start. However, other preventive actions can be taken to help fight bruxism. For people of all ages, regular exercise is a stress reducer, which, in turn, can directly reduce bruxism. For adults, it may help to cut down on stimulants (such as tobacco and caffeine). For all ages, it helps to reduce the intake of any caffeinated beverages.
If the pain resulting from bruxism is somewhat extreme, a dentist may prescribe a medicine such as Diazepam (Valium) for short-term use. It should be taken at night before bed to help reduce grinding at night. A prescription for a muscle relaxant to temporarily ease jaw spasms may also be a possibility.
For Help, Contact a Happy Tooth Professional
However, the best way to treat bruxism is to be conscious of any signs so that with such early detection, you can see your dentist about a mouth guard and put an end to your teeth-grinding pain. If you have any symptoms, contact your Happy Tooth professional as soon as possible. Not a patient yet? Check out this new patient special: