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Understanding Bruxism and Teeth Grinding

Posted on May 27th, 2015 by Dr. Nikoo Daftary

Bruxism-and-teeth-grindingYou may have never heard of the term before bruxism, or maybe you have. In either case, it’s helpful to know what it is and what to do about it. Bruxism is when you unconsciously grit or grind your teeth during stressful situations or while sleeping. While occasional grinding can happen and doesn’t typically cause damage, regular grinding does and can result in harm to the long-term health of your teeth. Grinding over a long enough period can cause teeth to fracture or loosen, and will necessitate dental work to repair the damage, including crowns, root canals, and even dentures. If you believe or know you suffer from bruxism, read on for some ideas on what to do to prevent any further damage or complications.

Understanding Bruxism

First, it’s important to know if you grind your teeth, and if so, how bad your situation is. Grinding often occurs during periods of intense emotion or stress, but it happens during sleep too. Sufferers who grind at night will typically wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, sensitive teeth, or headache located around the temples. If you think you are grinding your teeth at night, try asking your spouse or significant other if they hear you grinding your teeth while sleeping. You should also make an appointment with your dentist to have them check for signs of bruxism.

What to do About Grinding

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat bruxism to prevent further damage and complications. Start by finding out what triggers or causes your bruxism, so you can treat the condition by targeting the root of the cause. For example, if you typically grind your teeth because of stress, then healthy activities like exercise and eliminating unnecessary stressors can inhibit grinding from occurring in the first place.
If stress isn’t the issue, and grinding tends to happen at night, make an appointment with your dentist to get fitted for a mouth guard to wear while you sleep. Furthermore, some sleep disorders are known to cause grinding, so treating the sleep disorder could also relieve the symptoms associated with bruxism. Finally, placing a warm washcloth on your cheek towards the back of your jaw before bed may also help relax the muscles responsible for clenching and grinding.
Other ways to reduce grinding include reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, avoid chewing on any foreign objects except for food (such as pencils or pens), and use breath mints instead of chewing gum. Make a conscious effort to place your tongue between your teeth when you get the urge to bite down. Doing so will prevent the behavior and will slowly create a muscle memory to relax instead of contract.
In many cases, your dentist will notice signs of bruxism before you do, so it is important to see your dentist for regular exams and cleanings. To schedule your next checkup with one of Art of Modern Dentistry’s excellent Chicago dentists contact us.

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