Do you ever find yourself waking up with a sore jaw or experiencing headaches that seem to have no apparent cause? If so, you may be unknowingly grinding or clenching your teeth, a condition known as bruxism. This is more common than you might think and can lead to a variety of dental problems if left untreated.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism refers to the habitual grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. It can occur both during the day (awake bruxism) and while you sleep (sleep bruxism). Awake bruxism is often associated with stress or anxiety, while sleep bruxism is thought to be related to abnormal sleep patterns, an abnormal bite, or missing or crooked teeth.
What are signs and symptoms of bruxism?
Bruxism can manifest in various ways, and the symptoms may vary from person to person. Here are some common signs to look out for
- Teeth grinding or clenching sounds.
Your partner or family members may notice these sounds during your sleep.
- Worn tooth surfaces.
Clenching can cause the enamel to erode, leading to tooth sensitivity and an increased risk of cavities.
- Jaw pain or soreness.
Frequent clenching or grinding can strain the muscles and joints in your jaw, resulting in discomfort or pain.
The tension created can contribute to chronic headaches.
- Fatigue and disrupted sleep.
Bruxism can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to fatigue even after a full night’s rest.
Which teeth and dental problems can it cause?
If left untreated, bruxism can have detrimental effects on your dental health. The continuous grinding and clenching put excessive pressure on your teeth, leading to a variety of dental problems, including:
- Tooth wear.
Clenching and grinding can wear down the enamel, exposing the inner layers of your teeth and increasing the risk of decay.
- Cracked or chipped teeth.
The constant grinding can weaken the structure of your teeth, making them more susceptible to fractures.
- Jaw disorders.
Clenching can strain the muscles and joints in your jaw, leading to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) and facial pain.
- Gum recession.
The excessive force exerted can cause the gums to recede, exposing the tooth roots and increasing sensitivity.
- Disrupted dental work.
If you have dental restorations like crowns or veneers, bruxism can damage or loosen them, requiring additional dental treatment.
Can bruxism be ‘healed’?
While bruxism may not have a definitive cure, there are ways to manage and minimize its impact on your dental health. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes can significantly reduce its occurrence and alleviate related symptoms. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to manage bruxism and protect your dental health:
- Stress management.
Since stress and anxiety are often associated with jaw clenching and teeth grinding, finding healthy ways to manage stress can help reduce teeth grinding. Consider relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or engaging in hobbies that promote calmness.
- Wear a nightguard.
A custom-fitted nightguard, also known as an occlusal splint, can provide a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth, reducing the impact of grinding during sleep.
- Correct misalignment.
If your bruxism is caused by an abnormal bite or misaligned teeth, orthodontic treatment or dental adjustments may be recommended to align your teeth properly and alleviate the grinding.
- Avoid stimulating substances.
- Regular dental check-ups.
Regular visits to your dentist are essential for early detection and management of bruxism. Your dentist will monitor your dental health, provide guidance on oral care and recommend appropriate treatments.
At Family Dental Care, we understand the importance of maintaining a healthy smile. Our team of experienced and caring dental professionals is committed to providing exceptional dental care to families in South Africa. From routine check-ups to specialised treatments, we offer a comprehensive range of services to address all your dental needs. Take the first step towards optimal oral health care. Schedule an appointment or call us today!