Teeth-grinding—or bruxism—is an unconscious action that many people do when they feel stress, it often occurs at night while sleeping. Although mild bruxism doesn’t always create symptoms, for some people, it can lead to physical symptoms like headaches and jaw pain, and can even cause permanent damage to the teeth. If you grind your teeth, or suspect that you do, talk to your dentist about preventing tooth damage and other oral health problems that can develop due to bruxism. It is better to prevent wear than to try to replace the tooth that has been lost long down the road.
Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism
Since bruxism can happen while you’re asleep, leaving you completely unaware of it, it’s important to know what the signs are, so you can get treatment to prevent further damage.
- Teeth are chipped, fractured, flattened, or loose
- Tooth enamel is worn, and teeth are more sensitive
- Jaw muscles feel tired, tight, or painful
- Headaches that affect the temples
- Pain in the ears
If you experience any of these symptoms, and in particular if your partner or spouse notices that you are audibly grinding your teeth when asleep, talk to your dentist at your next appointment. Without treatment, bruxism can lead to tooth loss, and the need to replace teeth with crowns, dentures, or bridges.
How can Your Dentist Help?
If you’re grinding your teeth when awake, you can try to train yourself to be aware of it, and attempt to break the habit, but that’s not necessarily something that will help you stop doing it while you’re sleeping.
One of the most effective methods of preventing sleep bruxism is something that your dentist can provide—an occlusal mouth guard. These are acrylic devices that are shaped to fit your mouth, over your upper or lower teeth. They have a smooth, soft, and non-abrasive surface, so if you start to grind your teeth while asleep, they are protected. An occlusal mouth guard can also be shaped to limit the amount of movement your mouth has while wearing it, so the grinding action is minimized. Mouth guards are easy to take care of, and only need daily brushing with cold water and your toothbrush. If you build up heavy calcium deposits on your bite guard, as well as your teeth, you may want to soak your bite guard in white vinegar. It is helpful to dissolve the calcium deposits for pennies on the dollar!
If grinding has already caused significant tooth damage you might need to undergo restorative dental procedures to repair the damage, but wearing an occlusal guard while you’re asleep will prevent further dental problems. It can also reduce or eliminate the pain in the jaw, head, and ear that results from bruxism, and the noise that it causes.
Bruxism is a common treatable disorder. Maintain routinedental visits so problems can be caught early or prevented altogether. Callyour dentist today!