The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research defines bruxism as “a condition where a person grinds, clenches, or gnashes his or her teeth.” It can happen when a person is awake or asleep and – if left untreated – can negatively impact the health of your teeth, as well as the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw. It’s essential to recognize the signs and take steps to both stop and reverse the effects. If you are a victim of excessive teeth grinding, visiting the dentist is your best first line of defense. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to Dentaly.org, an estimated 30-40 million people are affected by bruxism in the U.S. each year. And 12% of Americans list it as the bad dental habit they’d like most to give up.
Recognizing the Signs of Teeth Grinding
Your teeth may be the first to show physical signs of the result of teeth grinding. The edges of your teeth may appear chipped, cracked, or flattened. They may even become loose. The same holds true for fillings and crowns. In severe cases, the enamel of the teeth may become so worn down that the inner layers of the tooth are exposed – leading to toothaches and sensitivity. Some other bruxism symptoms to watch for include bleeding gums, tightness of the jaw, tiredness or soreness of the jaw muscles, persistent headaches or earaches, and/or pain radiating to the cheeks, neck, and shoulders.
Understanding the Causes of Teeth Grinding
As with anything in health and wellness, getting to the root causes of your teeth grinding is important. Some of the most common culprits are:
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
- Alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Genetic factors
- Certain medications
- Sleep disorders
- Neurological conditions like Huntington’s or Parkinson’s Disease
Why Regular Dental Check-ups Matter
Many people who grind their teeth may not even realize they’re doing it, particularly if they’re affected by nocturnal bruxism. Your dentist may be the first to recognize the signs of teeth grinding you might overlook. Regular bi-annual checkups will help your dentist get an accurate read of your teeth, and if signs of bruxism are seen, a treatment plan can be developed before any major (and potentially costly) damage is done.
Dental Examinations for Bruxism
Your dentist will be on the lookout for signature signs of wear and tear from bruxism during your physical examination, such as teeth or dental restorations that are damaged, sensitive, or painful to the touch. They will also check for other telltale bruxism symptoms like pain or tenderness in the jaw and face. Beyond the exam, you’ll receive annual X-rays, which can also signal the aftermath of teeth grinding.
Customized Treatment Plans
Once bruxism has been diagnosed, your dentist should develop a customized treatment plan to reverse any damage that’s already been done and to prevent further damage in the future. They may suggest teeth bonding or veneers to repair any cracked or uneven teeth and crowns to repair teeth that have been ground down to the point that the tooth's inner layers are exposed. If the exposed area of the tooth is infected, a root canal may be necessary. To help prevent future damage, your dentist can make a digital mold of your teeth and have a mouth guard tailored to your needs. With such a custom fit, your teeth will be protected from grinding every night, so it’s important to remember to place it before bed. (Drs. Harry and Darby have more they’d like to add.) If you’re a daytime grinder, lifestyle changes are likely your best bet for protecting your oral health.
Preventive Strategies and Lifestyle Changes
Beyond wearing night guards for teeth grinding and getting regular dental checkups, some preventative strategies for bruxism you can pursue beyond your dentist’s office include:
- Increased awareness of clenching or grinding your teeth and taking intentional steps to stop the habit
- Meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques
- Exercise to minimize stress
- Hypnosis or counseling to address anxiety
You can also pursue lifestyle changes that will benefit your overall health in more ways than one, like cutting down on caffeine and alcohol consumption and/or quitting smoking.
If you’re looking for Suwanee dentists who list treatment of bruxism among their specialties, look no further than the dedicated team at Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee. We are currently welcoming new patients! Our hours are 8 am-5 pm Mondays through Wednesdays, 7 am-3 pm Thursdays, and 8 am-12 pm on select Fridays. You can book an appointment online, call us at 770-945-5850, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting you AND your teeth!