Teeth grinding and clenching are widespread problems; 70% of people clench or grind their teeth due to stress and anxiety. The involuntary or habitual grinding of teeth is known as bruxism, and it typically occurs during sleep.
Besides stress, bruxism can result from bite problems, the overuse of stimulating substances such as caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco, and as a side effect of certain medications.
Sometimes, simply becoming aware of the habit can help. If you notice that you are clenching your teeth during the day, try to keep your teeth apart with your lips closed. Suppose your bruxism is related to stress or anxiety. In that case, stress reduction techniques such as exercise or meditation can help alleviate tension. Regular visits with your dentist can help you monitor your progress.
The most common issue that occurs from clenching and grinding is a tension headache. Since bruxism affects most people during their sleep, many don’t even realize that they suffer from it. Signs you could have bruxism are:
- Head, jaw, or ear pain, especially when you first wake up
- Tooth sensitivity
- Disrupted sleep
Grinding forces wear down the enamel, cause chipping or damage to teeth or dental work (such as veneers or fillings), or even loosen a tooth! While it’s common in children under 11 years old who are losing and erupting permanent teeth causing the bite to change, creating premature wear and tear, it can be a cause for concern in adults.
A dental professional will also notice evidence of bruxism during an exam or cleaning: apparent wear and tear on the chewing surfaces is a signal it’s time to do something.
Clenching or grinding caused by a minor bite problem, adjusting the tooth surfaces, or equilibration can remedy the situation. Equilibration involves removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth, bringing it into better alignment with the others. If it’s a more severe bite issue, consulting with orthodontic specialists is highly recommended. At Northeast Orthodontic Specialists, our orthodontists are trained to prevent, diagnose and treat facial and dental irregularities, such as malocclusions, or bad bites.
What happens if bruxism is left untreated?
Untreated bruxism can lead to:
- Temporomandibular disorders, commonly referred to as TMJ/TMD
- Periodontal disease
- Worn down enamel, which increases your risk for tooth decay
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
Nightguards for Bruxism
When damage to teeth is severe enough to require dental work, a custom mouthguard, also known as an occlusal guard, may also be necessary at bedtime after the damaged tooth is corrected. This type of appliance prevents your teeth from contacting each other while you sleep. Nightguards prevent additional wear and tear of enamel, tooth fractures and protect your jaw joints from stresses due to excessive grinding forces that are the common cause of headaches.
If you would like more information about this bruxism and the different options available to treat the problem by an orthodontic specialist, contact our Cincinnati or Loveland, OH office to schedule a complimentary evaluation on how to resolve your individual issue best.