By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
Teeth grinding is a common problem in both children and adults. It can take place in waking hours as well as while sleeping. Bruxism is a term we use to describe the habit of tooth clenching and/or grinding.
Lots of us carry some stress in our jaw muscles, and it’s no surprise that stress can be a cause of teeth grinding, but there may be more to it than that. In addition to stress and anxiety, other common causes of grinding include an abnormal bite, missing or crooked teeth, and sleep disordered breathing, often diagnosed as sleep apnea. Additionally, alcohol and tobacco use are linked with a 50% increase in teeth grinding.
Many folks grind their teeth without knowing it, so if you notice loved ones grinding away while sleeping, let them know so they can take steps to prevent it. Other symptoms that may reveal a grinding problem include headaches, especially in the morning; sore jaw joints or muscles; painful or loose teeth; and cracked or even fractured teeth. Any of these situations may lead to the need for dental interventions like crowns, implants, root canals or dentures, so it’s worth taking steps to resolve the problem.
The first step is to talk to us, your dentists, who can evaluate your mouth and jaw for possible signs of grinding. Some things we look for are excessive tooth wear and jaw tenderness, as well as how well your teeth function with each other. If we determine a dental reason for your bruxism, we might recommend splint therapy. There are many methods for splint therapy and we work to determine the most successful treatments for you, often through our records process (integrate link to other blog(s))
If stress seems to be the problem, take steps to reduce it. Consider counseling, exercise, meditation, or journaling to find a calmer state of mind. Along a similar vein, reducing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol and smoking often helps reduce bruxism.
An often overlooked, but becoming better understood, reason for bruxism is because of sleep disordered breathing. If your body can’t get enough air, especially when you are lying down and sleeping, one way your body compensates is to push the teeth around to open your airway. Ask your medical doctor to evaluate you for a sleep disorder, and start treatment if you have one. You often have to be an advocate for yourself to get the right testing and treatment and seeking a second opinion or seeking out a sleep specialist may be in order.
Break yourself of any chewing habits. Quit chewing on pens or pencils, nails and chewing gum. Habitual chewing not related to eating promotes over-active jaw muscles.
If you’re a day grinder, train yourself not to grind or clench your teeth. When you notice it happening, place the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth. This will remind your jaw muscles to relax.
Children also grind their teeth. They’re particularly prone to it when their baby teeth emerge and when they get their permanent teeth, and they often stop grinding once the teeth have become established. Children who grind their teeth should always be evaluated for sleep disordered breathing.
Teeth grinding may seem like a minor problem, but like any habit it becomes more entrenched over the years. After years of grinding, it can have a seriously negative impact on your oral health. Talk to us, your dentists, if you think bruxism may be a problem for you. We at Eggert Family Dentistry will help evaluate the problem and determine the right treatment for you!