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Everything You Need to Know about Bruxism and How to Treat It

Have you ever been told that you make a lot of noise while you sleep?

Some people talk while they sleep. Others snore. Still others sound like they are chewing on rocks
throughout the night.

The latter is known as bruxism and it is a condition that can damage your teeth, gums, and jaw joints.

Thankfully, your Whittier dentist has ways to help control this condition and prevent further damage.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition in which you clench, grind, or gnash your teeth. Though it can happen throughout the
day, most people do this during their sleep.

Nocturnal bruxism is considered a type of sleep disorder and has been scientifically linked to obstructive
sleep apnea (OSA)
. Researchers have also linked bruxism to diabetes, stating that clenching/grinding
is one of the oral complications of the disease.

What Causes Bruxism?

In addition to being a side effect of OSA and diabetes, bruxism can be caused by stress and anxiety. When a
person is under stress, their muscles tense up, particularly in the shoulders, neck, and head/face. It is
not uncommon for someone to notice sore jaw muscles after a particularly stressful experience. Anger,
frustration, and concentration can also lead to teeth and facial muscle clenching.

Another cause of clenching and grinding is tooth and/or jaw joint misalignment. Patients who have the
following conditions are
more prone to bruxism:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Open bite
  • Tooth protrusion

The cause of bruxing at night is unknown. Some attribute it to chronic stress or stress that has been
carried over from waking hours. Others think it is associated with certain arousals during sleep.

Unfortunately, it is the nighttime bruxism that can do the most damage. People who clench and grind at night
often do not know they do so unless a partner tells them so or their Whittier dentist brings up the
possibility. Because of this, damage is done continuously – sometimes over the course of decades – before a
patient gets help.

Can Bruxing Damage Your Oral Health?

Teeth grinding can damage your oral health in three ways.

  • Tooth damage: Constant grinding wears down tooth enamel, leading to wear facets in the
    biting surface of the teeth. Patients with holes in their enamel are more prone to tooth sensitivity and
    dental decay. Additionally, due to the pressure placed on the teeth while clenching and grinding, cracks
    in the teeth can occur. The result: Painful cracked tooth syndrome, chipped teeth, and even tooth
    fractures.
  • Gum damage: Teeth grinding stresses the delicate gum tissue. Eventually, the gingiva
    will start to recede. Gum recession can result in tooth sensitivity and make a patient more prone to gum
    disease and dental decay.
  • Jaw joint damage: While sleeping, you may clench your teeth with the force of up to 250
    pounds. Imagine trying to lift 250 pounds in the gym for six to eight hours. You would not be able to do
    it. And yet, your jaw muscles can experience this level of tension night after night. Over time, you
    will experience sore muscles and headaches, and even develop a condition called TMJ disorder.

What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)?

You have two jaw joints – one on each side of your face. Each joint acts as a sliding hinge, connecting your
lower jawbone (mandible) to your skull (temporal bone). The hinge allows your lower jaw to move up and down,
and from side to side. In between the two bones is a soft disc made of cartilage that protects the bones and
provides smooth movement.

Due to chronic clenching and grinding, the disc can
become damaged. You can also develop arthritis in your
jaw joint. Eventually, you will develop one or more of the following symptoms of TMJ disorder.

  • Jaw pain/tenderness
  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Earaches that are not caused by infections
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Pain while chewing
  • Facial pain (typically, aching pain)
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Lock jaw
  • Clicking or popping sound in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth or while chewing
  • Grating sensation in your jaw when you open or close your mouth

Can a Whittier Dentist Put an End to Nocturnal Teeth Grinding?

When patients start noticing symptoms of TMJ disorder or experience tooth pain, that is when they will
schedule an appointment with their Whittier dentist. This may be the first
time they find out that they
clench and grind their teeth at night.

During your evaluation, your dentist will ask you about your symptoms. Try to provide them with as in-depth
answers as possible. It might be a good idea to keep a symptoms journal between now and your appointment
date. Document:

  • When you experience pain
  • How often you have pain
  • When you first started noticing the pain (if you can recall)
  • What type of pain you are dealing with (jaw, tooth, or both)
  • Whether you feel rested in the morning or not
  • If your partner has made comments about teeth grinding noises

After discussing your symptoms, your dentist will do an oral evaluation. They will check your teeth and gums
to rule out periodontal disease, decay, and infections. Your Whittier dentist will also look for:

  • Cracked teeth
  • Enamel chips
  • Holes in your enamel
  • Gum recession

During your appointment, your dentist will also place their hands on either side of your face and have you
open and close your mouth. They are looking for any deviation upon opening and closing, as well as
feeling/looking for jaw popping or clicking.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Based on what they find during evaluation, your dentist will recommend one or more of the following solutions.

  • Orthodontic treatment: Teeth and jaw misalignment can be treated with braces. Ortho treatment can reduce bruxism significantly, if not completely.
  • Jaw surgery: For more complex cases of jaw misalignment, oral and maxillofacial surgery may be indicated.
  • Nighttime mouthguard: A nightguard, mouthguard, or splint can take some of the pressure off your teeth and jaw joints during the night. The result: Less pain and long-term damage to your dentition.

Additionally, your dentist may recommend seeing your general physician. They want to make sure they treat the root cause of your bruxism, not simply treating the symptoms. Your doctor may order a sleep study and other diagnostic tests to rule out serious health conditions, like OSA and diabetes.

Get Relief from Pain Fast and Reduce Your Risk of Dental Breakdown

A Whittier dentist can help you find relief from bruxing pain. With proper care, you can reduce how often you experience headaches and keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong.

In addition to providing you with some pain relief, conquering your nocturnal bruxism will help your partner sleep better at night, too.

If you suspect you are dealing with daytime or nighttime bruxism, contact your dentist to find out how to prevent long-term damage and get a better night’s sleep.

Do you wake up with jaw pain or deal with chronic headaches? You might have TMJ disorder. Contact the team at Dentists of Whittier to schedule a consultation.