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Located in Archer Heights

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

About the Service

The formal term for teeth grinding is “bruxism”, a word coined in the early 1900s by Marie Pietkiewicz, who referred to compulsive teeth grinding as ‘la bruxomanie.’ Later, "bruxism" became the accepted term to describe this unconscious behavior. Bruxism falls into the category of "parafunctional" behaviors, alongside actions like tooth tapping, biting cheeks and lips, biting fingernails, and tongue thrusting.

Bruxism, AKA: Teeth Grinding

The formal term for teeth grinding is “bruxism”, a word coined in the early 1900s by Marie Pietkiewicz, who referred to compulsive teeth grinding as ‘la bruxomanie.’ Later, "bruxism" became the accepted term to describe this unconscious behavior. Bruxism falls into the category of "parafunctional" behaviors, alongside actions like tooth tapping, biting cheeks and lips, biting fingernails, and tongue thrusting.

Teeth grinding comes in two forms: sleep bruxism and wake-time bruxism. While these are distinct disorders, they are not mutually exclusive. Today, we'll focus on sleep bruxism, which is often more challenging to identify and manage.

Understanding Sleep Bruxism

Sleep bruxism involves rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary jaw muscle activity that occurs during sleep. This activity leads to forceful contact between the upper and lower teeth, often accompanied by unpleasant sounds. Clenching, characterized by sustained and forceful tooth contact without sideways jaw movements, is also common. On average, individuals who grind their teeth do so two to four times per hour of sleep. When grinding occurs at this frequency, it is classified as a sleep disorder. Interestingly, approximately 60% of the population exhibits mild chewing-like activity during sleep, which is not classified as sleep bruxism but rather a psychological sleep-related movement.

Bruxism poses challenges for dentists, as it can rapidly damage restorative dental work. While in most cases, sleep bruxism manifests as teeth grinding during sleep, it can also serve as a symptom of other underlying disorders, necessitating further diagnosis and treatment. These may include obstructive sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux, restless leg syndrome, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), sleep-related epilepsy, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Why Do We Grind Our Teeth?

The direct cause of sleep bruxism remains elusive, with psychological factors likely playing a significant role, although conclusive evidence is lacking. Some professionals believe that individuals who grind their teeth are more sensitive to stress and anxiety.

Bruxism is centrally regulated, originating as a sleep disturbance in the central nervous system rather than being triggered or controlled by peripheral factors in the mouth. It is not caused by infectious diseases, nor is it a tic or reaction triggered by improperly fixed dental prostheses.

Sleep bruxism affects nearly 10% of the general population, with children and adolescents being more prone to it (up to 40% of 11-year-olds experience teeth grinding). The elderly population appears to be less affected, though this data may be inconclusive due to factors such as missing teeth or lack of a partner to report tooth grinding sounds. Symptoms related to bruxism can vary over time, with individuals experiencing varying levels of teeth grinding frequency throughout their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here's Some Common Questions We Get

What is bruxism or teeth grinding?
Is grinding bad for my health?
What is a night guard?
Why do I need to use a Night Guard?

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Signs of Teeth Grinding or Sleep Bruxism

The signs and symptoms of teeth grinding may not always be obvious. Abnormal teeth wear, sore jaw muscles, morning headaches, and overtrained jaw muscles are common indicators of grinding your teeth. Additionally, bruxism can lead to TMJ syndrome, causing pain when opening or closing the mouth or chewing.

Other signs may include neck pain, earaches, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, inflammation of salivary glands, periodical swelling and inflammation, and abnormal dryness of the mouth. However, not all symptoms may be present or noticeable in every individual, as some may remain asymptomatic despite intense grinding activity during sleep.

Contrary to popular belief, the degree of teeth wear is not directly correlated with the intensity or frequency of tooth grinding. Teeth wear depends on factors such as enamel quality, saliva composition, acid intake, and the presence of gastroesophageal reflux.

What to Do if You Suspect You Grind Your Teeth at Night

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night (or perhaps your partner has told you that you grind your teeth at night!), then you should consult a dentist and get an appointment to assess any potential damage.

If your dentist has suggested that you may be grinding your teeth at night, it's essential to take action to protect your dental health. While some individuals may not exhibit obvious symptoms like jaw soreness or headaches, subtle signs can still pose long-term issues. If not treated, this can lead to severe pain and discomfort down the line that is much harder to treat comfortably.

The next step is to consider getting fitted for a night guard or mouth guard. Although the idea of wearing a piece of acrylic while sleeping may seem daunting, custom night guards from your dentist offer a better fit, increased durability, and enhanced comfort. Severe grinding can lead to long-term tooth damage, tooth loss, TMJ disorders, facial structure alterations, and other complications, making protective measures essential for maintaining dental health.

How can I alleviate jaw pain caused by teeth grinding?

Jaw pain is a common symptom of teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to help alleviate this discomfort. Your dentist may recommend practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to reduce stress and tension in your jaw muscles. Applying heat or ice packs to the affected area can also help relieve pain and inflammation. Additionally, gentle jaw exercises and stretches may help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. In some cases, your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants or recommend wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard or splint to prevent further damage to your teeth and alleviate jaw pain associated with bruxism.

Can teeth grinding cause damage to my teeth?

Yes, teeth grinding can cause significant damage to your teeth over time. The excessive pressure and friction from grinding can wear down the protective enamel layer, leading to tooth sensitivity, chips, fractures, and even tooth loss in severe cases. Additionally, grinding can cause the teeth to become flattened, worn down, or develop uneven surfaces, affecting their appearance and function. If left untreated, the damage caused by bruxism can necessitate extensive dental treatments, such as fillings, crowns, or even tooth extractions to restore oral health and function. Therefore, it's essential to address teeth grinding promptly and seek appropriate treatment to prevent further damage to your teeth and oral structures.

How can I prevent teeth grinding?

Preventing teeth grinding often involves addressing underlying factors contributing to the condition, such as stress, anxiety, or misaligned teeth. Your dentist may recommend various treatment approaches, including stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and lifestyle modifications to reduce bruxism-related symptoms. Additionally, wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard or splint during sleep can help protect your teeth from the effects of grinding and alleviate associated jaw pain and discomfort. It's essential to follow your dentist's recommendations and maintain regular dental check-ups to monitor your oral health and address any underlying issues contributing to teeth grinding.

What are the consequences of untreated teeth grinding?

Untreated teeth grinding can lead to various oral health issues and complications, including worn-down tooth enamel, tooth fractures, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Over time, the excessive pressure and friction from grinding can cause irreversible damage to your teeth and surrounding oral structures, leading to costly and invasive dental procedures to repair the damage. Additionally, chronic bruxism can contribute to headaches, facial pain, and disrupted sleep patterns, negatively impacting your overall quality of life.