Are You a Tooth-Grinder?

Are You a Tooth-Grinder?

Teeth-grinding, also known as bruxism, is bad news for your teeth.

The enamel that covers and protects your teeth is the hardest substance in the human body. But enamel grinding against enamel will wear it away and can easily lead to other dental problems.

Chronic bruxism can crack or even break your teeth. Any opening in the enamel exposes the inside of your teeth to the bacteria that live in the mouth. And that’s a set-up for dental infection.

Catching bruxism as early as possible is important. The cost of a dental cleaning and exam, which will detect tooth wear, cracks, or fractures, is a small percentage of what it would cost to repair a broken tooth, clean out a dental infection via a root canal, or have to replace a damaged tooth with a dental bridge or dental implant.

What Causes Bruxism?

The exact causes haven’t been determined, but there are a number of factors that can contribute to bruxism.

  • Your upper and lower teeth may not be aligned properly, a condition known as malocclusion.
  • Stomach acid that refluxes into the esophagus can contribute to bruxism.
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep issues may be a factor.
  • You may hold emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension
  • If you’re a competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive person, your personality may be a factor.
  • You may use teeth grinding as a way of focusing your attention or coping.
  • Stimulant use, such as caffeine, nicotine, methamphetamines, or Ecstasy may put you at risk for bruxism.
  • There may be an underlying neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease.
  • It may be due to some psychiatric medications like phenothiazines or some antidepressants, although this is uncommon.
  • In children, bruxism may be a pain response when they’re teething or if they have an earache. Or, it may be something that will pass by the time they become teenagers.

You may or may not be aware that you grind your teeth. Sometimes, people first learn about because their co-workers bring it to their attention, or their sleeping partner complains about grinding noises at night.

However, bruxism can easily cause tooth sensitivity, which may be an early sign. Or perhaps unexplained jaw pain or headaches might alert you to the fact that something is wrong.

The Effects of Teeth-Grinding

In addition to dental problems, bruxism causes a lot of other issues.

You may experience pain or soreness in your face or jaw.  Or, your jaw muscles may feel tight or tired. You can experience pain that feels like an earache even though it’s not an earache. Or, you may have a dull headache that starts in your temples.

Your tongue and your cheek inside can also show signs of bruxism like cheek damage or indentations in your tongue.

Treating Bruxism

If the exact cause or the factors contributing to teeth-grinding can be determined, it may be possible to treat the underlying condition. However, that can be a time-consuming process and may not be successful.

For most people, a professional, customized bruxism/night guard appliance is the best answer. While it doesn’t correct the underlying cause, it does address the symptoms and helps prevent further damage to your teeth.

A professional, customized appliance is your best option. It’s perfectly designed to fit your teeth and your alone. The clear, hard acrylic plastic covers your upper teeth and rests between your upper and lower teeth. It acts as a barrier to prevent your teeth from grinding on each other.

Your custom appliance will be far more comfortable and effective than a mouthguard you purchase from a sporting goods store. It does take several weeks for a dental lab to create your bruxism/nightguard appliance, but the results are well worth the wait.

If you know or suspect that you grind your teeth, don’t wait. For people with bruxism, time is enamel lost. Call our West Chester, Pennsylvania dental office at 610-314-7534 for an appointment. Dr. Sykora will examine your teeth, explore your history, and suggest the best option for helping you keep your teeth strong, healthy, and free from further wear.

We’ll be happy to arrange a day and time that works best for you. Or, send us a message using our online form. A member of our team will get back with you as soon as possible.

If you or child might be suffering from bruxism, take action now to prevent further damage. All of us at K.C. Sykora Family & Implant Dentistry are eager to help you keep your teeth for life and to avoid the problems that go with teeth-grinding.