Bruxism is a catch-all term that encompasses both teeth grinding and teeth clenching. Teeth grinding is rubbing your teeth together and is usually something that happens while you are sleeping. Teeth clenching is pushing your teeth together and can happen at any time of day or night.
Your top teeth and bottom teeth should not touch each other when you’re at rest. They should only touch when you are chewing, swallowing and sometimes when you are talking. The force on your teeth when they come together is 300 lbs. (Imagine a football player standing on your tooth!) Over time, that force can cause some big problems to your teeth!
The earliest sign of bruxism are flattened areas on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. (We call these wear facets.) You may also see indentations on your teeth in places where they shouldn’t be; the most common areas are on the tips of the cusps or at the gumline. Sometimes, you might see a scalloped border on your tongue where it has pushed up against your teeth or bite marks on the inside of your cheeks.
Over time, bruxism can cause teeth and fillings to crack or break. But your teeth aren’t the only part of your mouth affected by bruxism. The bone around your teeth can also be affected. You might also get headaches from the muscles tensing while you brux or have pain in your jaw joint. Your jaw might even lock (open or closed) so that you can’t move it.
So, as you can see, bruxism has the potential to cause many problems. What can you do about it? The three main treatment types are: medications, occlusal nightguards, and behavioral interventions.
There is no medication that can prevent or stop bruxism, but some medications such as muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories are helpful in treating the symptoms and pain that result.
Occlusal nightguards are a removable appliance that creates a barrier between your teeth to protect them and also maintains the space between your teeth to assist the jaw muscles in not closing all the way. Professionally made ones are the best because they are custom made for your teeth and mouth, but they can be pricey. Over-the-Counter ones are cheaper but may feel bulkier or cause more drooling, both of which may make it less likely that you will wear it. Over-the-Counter ones may also be more likely to fall out overnight, negating their protection.
Behavioral interventions can include exercises (especially for those experiencing jaw joint issues), lifestyle changes (stress reduction etc.), meditation or yoga, biofeedback (to help you learn triggers and how to control muscles that you might not usually think about), physical therapy and/or massage of the jaw joint.
The earlier you start wearing an occlusal nightguard and the more faithful you are to wear it each night, the more protection it will give you and your teeth. If you think you are clenching or grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. If you do not have a dentist, Dr. Robb is taking new patients. You can contact her office by phone at 440-960-1940 or by using the contact form at her website: www.drjrobb.com
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.