Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a dental concern that affects patients of all ages. Often, patients don’t even realize that they are suffering from bruxism until it leads to more complex dental concerns. Patients with bruxism are likely to experience worn-down teeth and unwanted dental damage, as well as TMJ disorders.
TMJ disorders occur after long-term stress has been applied to your dental structures, causing the joints in your jaw to become inflamed. Dr. Khanna and the dental care team at Bethesda Family Smiles look for the signs and symptoms of bruxism during your routine appointments. If we suspect you are grinding your teeth while you sleep, we will help you manage this habit before it develops into complex dental concerns.
There are many different reasons why you may be grinding your teeth. Most commonly, stress is a contributing factor. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to catch yourself clenching or grinding your teeth during the day and doing it at night. If you’re prone to anxiety, this can also make you more likely to grind your teeth. Your subconscious sees bruxism as a way to cope with these emotions.
Various dental problems give you a higher chance of bruxism. When your teeth aren’t aligned properly, you’re more likely to grind them. TMJ conditions go hand in hand with bruxism — if you have one, you’re likely to have the other. Missing teeth and poorly-fitting dental restorations also make you more likely. Imbalances or pain in your mouth cause muscle tension and increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
Sleep disorders and medications impact many other aspects of your body. Sleep apnea causes your body to try to reopen the airway when soft tissues collapse in the back of your throat. You’re more likely to grind your teeth during this process. Psychiatric medications, like antidepressants, often have bruxism as a side effect. They indirectly cause muscle tension and bruxism. Stimulants and too much caffeine can cause it as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism
Various things can cue you into knowing you have bruxism. It’s often hard to catch yourself doing it, as it’s most common while sleeping. One of the most common ways to notice is tooth pain or sensitivity, often concentrated on one side of your mouth. Grinding wears down your enamel and exposes more of the sensitive layers underneath. It can also present as a toothache with no cause or a dull aching throughout your jaw.
You may also notice an odd wear pattern on certain teeth. Typically with bruxism, it’s concentrated in a certain area, so you’ll only notice the wear in that area. Teeth will wear down faster than others and often appear flattened. These teeth are also more likely to chip or fracture.
If you frequently wake up with pain and tension in your head and face, it can often be dismissed as other conditions. The tension can range from your head down to your neck and shoulders. Pain is often concentrated around the jaw joint, including ear pain, since the ear is directly beside the jaw joint. Jaw function can be compromised as well. It may pop and click or get stuck in certain positions when you’re using it. There may be ways you can’t move your jaw, a limited range of motion.
Bruxism Treatment in Bethesda, MD
Diagnosis of bruxism can be difficult, especially for a traditional doctor. If you have concerns about teeth grinding, bring it up to Dr. Khanna. She’ll examine your teeth for signs of wear common with bruxism. You may also have a prominent masseter muscle, common with chronic teeth clenching. Sometimes, we’ll recommend a sleep study to diagnose the condition definitively.
Commonly, we’ll use oral appliance therapy for bruxism. A nightguard provides a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing them from grinding them together. They also help lessen the amount of grinding or clenching. We custom-make each guard so that it fits your smile perfectly.
Depending on the underlying cause of the clenching, there are other things you can do. Certain exercises help relax the jaw muscles, reducing the tension there. Avoiding lifestyle habits like drinking or changing certain prescription medications can also help lessen the chances of grinding and clenching.
Bruxism can cause issues with oral and overall health. Learn more by reading the answers to the following frequently asked questions.
How do I know if I grind my teeth?
Since teeth grinding often happens while people sleep, they may not even know it is happening. At regular dental checkups, your dentist will be able to see signs of wear and tear that are caused by grinding.
What happens if bruxism is not treated?
Constant teeth grinding can lead to serious teeth damage. The tooth enamel will slowly wear off the teeth surfaces, leaving them susceptible to decay. All the teeth surfaces will also wear down, leading to dull surfaces. You are also risking chipped teeth, cracked teeth, and tooth loss.
Can bruxism go away on its own?
In most cases, teeth grinding is not serious and will go away independently, especially in kids. However, sometimes treatment is necessary. Dr. Khanna offers several options to help prevent further damage and relieve the pain.
What can I do to help with my teeth grinding?
Many patients suffer from bruxism because they are under a lot of stress. Therefore, addressing your stress level may help treat the teeth grinding. There are several ways to accomplish this, including yoga, meditation, or other activities that help lower your stress, such as reading or exercising.
Our office treats patients with bruxism by using oral appliance therapy, also known as the use of a night guard. A night guard is a mouthguard designed to be worn at night. It holds your jaw in a healthy resting position as you sleep. It also acts as a protective layer so that even if you apply pressure to your teeth, they will not experience any damage.
Schedule an Appointment
If you suspect you are grinding your teeth while you sleep, a night guard is a proactive approach to treating this habit before it develops into complex dental concerns. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Khanna today if you would benefit from a custom night guard.