Clenching your teeth when you become angry or when you experience a stressful moment is a common quirk. You stop when you relax, but sometimes you hold that position and it starts to hurt your jaw; then you stop.
Can you imagine doing that for hours at a time? People with bruxism do. Bruxism (which is the technical term for grinding one’s teeth during sleep) can destroy your teeth, and can cause problems like Cracked Tooth Syndrome, TMD (temporomandibular disorders, also known as TMJ). People who brux are more likely to need root canals, and it can even make gum disease worse.
Your dentist can help! If you suffer from bruxism, Dores Dental (in Long Meadow, MA) can provide you with a custom-made night guard that will protect your teeth from the enormous and destructive forces you generate when you grind your teeth during sleep.
What is Bruxism?
It’s estimated that somewhere between 25% to 50% of adults grind their teeth in their sleep. Imagine eating something tough, that requires a lot of chewing and grinding such as a carrot. To chew the carrot, your jaws need to generate about 16 to 34 pounds of biting pressure. That’s a lot, but that amount of force is only needed briefly. People who brux will grind their teeth against each other, in their sleep, for hours at a time. The amount of force that they generate with their jaws is huge. At any given time, a person suffering with bruxism will grind their teeth with anywhere from 300% to 1000% of their normal biting pressure. That means if you’re bruxing you could be applying 340 pounds of biting pressure to your teeth, with nothing in between, for hours. A quick Google search reveals that’s a little bit stronger than the bite of a mountain lion!
Bruxism isn’t limited to adults; children can grind their teeth too. Unlike adults, children can grow out of bruxism because most of the time it’s caused by discomfort relating to growing teeth.
What are the Signs of Bruxism?
Because bruxism happens while you’re asleep, it can be hard to spot the signs and symptoms. If you have a sleeping partner, they may have already mentioned one of the classic symptoms: the sound of your teeth grinding can be very loud, so loud that it can keep other people awake at night.
If you sleep alone, however, try to look for these additional signs that might point to bruxism, or at least the possibility that you have it:
- Unexplained and persistent pain in the jaw, the ear, or the face
- Teeth have become more sensitive
- Jaw muscles feel tight or tired
- Frequent headaches that are centered around the temples
- Signs of damage from chewing on the tongue and cheeks
- Worn or damaged teeth
What Can My Dentist Do?
Your dentist can help stop the damage you’re doing to your teeth by fitting you with a custom-made night guard. Night guards are very similar to athletic mouthguards. There are over-the-counter night guards available, but they are made of inferior materials (they have to be able to take a lot of punishment, after all) and over-the-counter products are also one-size-fits-all (meaning they don’t really fit anyone at all). A poorly fitted night guard can be uncomfortable and will wear out even faster (remember, this is happening while you sleep!).
What Can I Do?
Treating the causes of bruxism is very complex; if the cause for your bruxism is most likely stress, that needs to be addressed. Not only because of the damage you’re causing for your teeth, but because prolonged, uncontrolled stress has negative health impacts all over the body, including your immune system. There are some things that you can do to help control your stress and potentially reduce the symptoms of bruxism.
Here are some common stress relief ideas:
The nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant, and stimulants are known to enhance the symptoms of bruxism and stress in general. This is just another reason to quit!
Cut Back On Alcohol:
Alcohol can increase the symptoms of bruxism, even if you only drink in moderation without problems. If you have bruxism, think about cutting back on how much and how often you drink. If stress is the main cause of your bruxism, alcohol can make your stress worse. Stress and alcohol both put strain on your body; at the same time it can be much worse. Reducing your alcohol consumption will help.
Get More Exercise
Take it slow at first if you aren’t a gym regular. In fact, you don’t have to join the gym at the start; a couple thirty minute walks a day can do a lot to reduce your stress.
Meditation is becoming an increasing popular way for people to control their stress and to promote wellness. Meditation isn’t a religious experience, nor does it require anything but yourself. The Mayo Clinic has some tips for people who want to try meditation to control their stress. Click here to learn more.
Assess Your Medications
If you suffer from stress or anxiety, you may have a stress disorder that you’re treating with medications. However, some medications can actually worsen the symptoms of bruxism. Discuss your medications with your prescribing medical professional and see if you can make a change to them, if possible.
You Have One Set of Teeth: Protect Them!
Your teeth are strong, but the amount of punishment they endure if you have bruxism can do a lot of damage to them and create opportunities for infections and disease.
If you think you have bruxism, make an appointment with us now. You can call our office at 413-241-3995, or click here to reach our online appointment form.