Teeth grinding, or BRUXISM is a dental problem that many people don't even realize is happening until it is pointed out by their dentist. People are aware of certain bothersome symptoms, especially when they wake up in the morning. Some who grind their teeth at night are unaware of it, and are only told about the problem by their significant others who notice it at night.
But while most people don’t realize they are grinding or clenching, they often recognize the symptoms that are caused by it. When teeth grinding is persistent, it can cause headaches (especially in the morning), soreness in the jaw, and excessive wear on one's teeth. Bruxism can be especially harmful to your oral health, in extreme cases causing teeth to come loose, chip, or fracture. When teeth are worn down far enough, repair may require bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or even dentures.
Causes of grinding and clenching can include stress, poor occlusion (malocclusion), and strong jaw muscles. When teeth are misaligned, people can develop unhealthy grinding and clenching habits. Teeth subject to pressure can develop chipping and notches along the gum line. This can also cause sensitivity along the gum line, when the enamel wears away. A lot of patients who grind have teeth that are sensitive at the gum line to cold water and air, and visually a pit, or void can be seen. When the teeth have stress, this area wears and causes what we call an "abfraction". If an abfraction gets very deep, it may need a filling or even a crown. Tops of teeth can also be worn from excessive grinding. Wear facets can lead to decay and shortening of the teeth.
Clenching can also be relieved with the use of an occlusal guard. Some common symptoms of clenching are excess bony growth below the teeth, white horizontal lines inside your checks and indentations on your tongue.
To avoid need for these costly dental restoratives, occlusal guards, or nightguards, are used to protect against teeth grinding. These appliances are made out of clear acrylic resin and are custom fabricated to fit each individual's top or bottom sets of teeth. If you are a heavy grinder, the dentist may want to make you a thicker nightgaurd made by an outside lab.
These special mouth guards work as a barrier, preventing contact between top and bottom teeth. Wearing an occlusal guard at night helps release tension in the jaw, improving the quality of your sleep and preventing headaches and soreness caused by teeth grinding. It also protects teeth from unnecessary wear and decay. Guards can also be worn during the day to provide relief of pressure on jaw muscles as well as protect the teeth.
Occlusal guards are relatively easy to clean and maintain; a soft bristle tooth brush and toothpaste should be used to brush the outside daily or a denture cleaner tab can be used as well. If you are affected by teeth clenching, you may experience the headaches and soreness in the jaw during the day.
If you have the following symptoms, you may want to check if teeth grinding and clenching is the cause.