What is bruxism?
Bruxism (pronounced BRUK-sizm) is the technical termfor forcible grinding and clenching of the teeth. It usually happens at night, during sleep, although some people grind their teeth during the day as well. People who suffer from bruxism may also bite their fingernails or pencils, or chew the insides of their cheeks.
How common is bruxism?
About half of US adults grind their teeth at night, and about 20% (over 40 million people) grind their teeth in a destructive way. Most people who grind their teeth are over 25 years old, and the disorder affects women and men about equally. Children also grind their teeth, but usually in response to discomfort caused by colds, ear infections or allergies. Most cases of bruxism in children resolve on their own without causing tooth damage or other problems.
What causes bruxism?
Bruxism can have a variety of causes, but the most common are probably emotional factors such as daytime stress, anxiety, anger, pain and frustration. Certain sleep disorders can trigger grinding of the teeth as well. People who are competitive, aggressive, and rushed may also be at greater risk for bruxism. Lastly, alcohol and some types of medications may worsen tooth grinding.
Why bruxism can be a serious problem?
When you chew your food, your deliver a force of about 175 pounds per square inch (psi) to your teeth. But when you grind your teeth at night, there's no food to absorb the impact, so the force on your teeth can be 300 psi or more. That's enough to cause permanent damage to your teeth, including cracked and chipped enamel, hairline fractures, and even wearing down of the teeth to the gumline. The enamel may become so worn that the inside of the tooth (called the dentin) is exposed. If bruxism isn't treated, it can lead to gum damage, loss of both natural teeth and restorations, and other more complicated jaw-related disorders (such as TMJ known as temporomandibular joint disorders). Over time, your teeth may become sensitive due to exposed dentin, and your jaws may even move out of proper balance. Grinding your teeth can also cause a wide variety of other symptoms including soreness and fatigue in your jaw and facial muscles, and earaches or headaches-especially when you wake up in the morning. There is no known cure for bruxism. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or stop your grinding and even ways to limit further damage and pain due to grinding.
DO YOU GRIND YOUR TEETH?
How to find out if you're grinding your teeth? Because most bruxism happens at night, most sufferers aren't even aware of it until a sleep partner mentions the noise (an extremely disturbing sound, like fingernails on a blackboard), or until a dentist notices that their teeth are damaged. Here are some typical symptoms that may indicate nighttime teeth grinding:
- Jaw or facial pain and tenderness on awakening that lessens throughout the day
- Headaches or earaches in the morning that go away as the day wears on
- Spouse or sleep partner complains that the noise is keeping them awake at night
- Teeth have become sensitive to cold, pressure, or other stimuli
- Indentations on tongue
- Tips of teeth appear flattened
What to do if you think you may be grinding your teeth?
If you think you might be grinding your teeth at night, the first thing to do is visit your dentist to assess any possible damage. It's essential to halt the course of the disease to prevent or arrest damage to your teeth, gums, and jaws.
Night Guard is also used as therapy to treat these conditions.