Grinding Teeth Grinding to a Halt

Teeth grinding is a habit known also as bruxism. It typically includes clenching of the jaw; can have serious effects teeth, gums and supporting bones; and can result in cosmetic damage if left untreated. Temperature sensitivity, chipped teeth, worn enamel, broken fillings, eroded gums, or a worsening of temporormandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) are a few signs and symptoms of this habit that are best brought to the attention of a competent dentist.

People who grind their teeth don’t always know that they do this. This is because bruxism is something that often occurs at night when a person is sleeping. Sometimes a family member notices the grinding sound or a dentist notices the signs or symptoms.

Causes of bruxism can include improper alignment of the top and bottom teeth, trauma, complications from disorders such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, or even allergic reactions. But the most common cause of bruxism is stress.

Patients having pain in their jaw, face or ear; patients that notice worn, damaged or sensitive teeth; or patients who have been told that they are making grinding noises at night should see their doctor or dentist. Routine dental exams are excellent opportunities for patients and their dentists to review a patient’s medical history and check for signs of bruxism.

Treatment of bruxism should include finding and eliminating the cause. Dental guards are available from a dentist to protect the teeth from unusual wear, but they do not cure the condition and can worsen TMJ in patients with a pre-existing TMJ disorder. Patients should consult their dentist to see if a dental guard is right for them.

Other forms of treatment includes various types of biofeedback – helping the patient become aware of their activity through the use of electrical, chemical or psychological methods – and botox. Both of these methods are somewhat controversial so patients are advised to talk them over with their dentist.

Damaged teeth may be repaired with a “crown.” A crown is a type of dental “cap” that covers or encircles a tooth or dental implant and is usually bonded to the tooth with dental cement. In which case, an occlusal guard (a bite guard) may be provided to wear during sleep to protect dental work from further damage until its fully set.

In any case, regular dental checkups – about two times per year – will ensure that conditions like bruxism will be noticed and treated as soon as possible – often before any real damage can occur. Any questions or concerns about bruxism should be addressed thoroughly from inside a dental office.

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