Teeth grinding, or bruxism, refers to involuntary, excessive grinding, gnashing, or clenching of the teeth. Up to 40 million Americans grind their teeth at night, leading to long-term dental issues, from enamel wear and tear to tooth loss. Protect your smile by learning about bruxism’s effect on your oral health and how to manage symptoms.
What Causes Bruxism?
The direct causes of bruxism are unknown, but it is believed that a combination of physical, psychological, and environmental factors may contribute to its development. Possible causes include stress, anxiety, anger, and boredom.
It may also be caused by certain medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia, or medications like antidepressants.
How Bruxism Affects Your Oral Health
Bruxism can cause multiple oral health problems because it puts your teeth and jaw under prolonged, unnecessary stress. Some health risks related to bruxism include:
The constant grinding motion can slowly wear away the enamel and expose the dentin layer underneath. This can lead to sensitivity to hot and cold, tooth discoloration, and cavities. In severe cases, it can lead to bone and tooth loss.
Your tooth’s middle dentin layer is softer than the enamel and is more susceptible to decay. Excessive teeth grinding can expose the dentin underneath to bacteria build-up leading to tooth decay.
By compromising the dentin, grinders place themselves at risk of more serious problems like decay, requiring dental treatments such as fillings, crowns, or root canal therapy.
Temporomandibular Joint Pain
Teeth grinding can trigger or worsen TMJ due to the added force on the jaw muscles and connective tissue. This may result in jaw imbalances, leading to painful movement and reduced jaw mobility.
Fractured or Chipped Teeth
When a person grinds their teeth, it puts pressure of up to 250 pounds on the teeth and can cause them to chip or fracture. This can cause an uneven bite, cracked teeth, and decay because the force on the teeth is more than what they are designed to withstand.
Grinding can wear down the teeth and damage the gums as the pressure causes the gums to recede away from the teeth, increasing gum pocket depth. This makes it easier for bacteria to accumulate and cause inflammation and infection. This can lead to problems such as tooth loss, bad breath, and heart disease.
How to Treat Bruxism
Wearing a mouthguard while sleeping is an effective way to reduce or stop bruxism. The mouthguard covers the teeth and prevents them from grinding against each other, reducing any damage caused by friction. It also absorbs pressure to reduce tension in the jaw muscles, which can help prevent further bruxism episodes.
Stretching exercises are also beneficial for relaxing the jaw muscles. These exercises involve stretching the tongue and facial muscles, doing jaw rotation, and tilting exercises. Doing these exercises regularly can help reduce any tightness in the jaw muscles, which can often cause bruxism.
In severe cases of bruxism, your doctor may prescribe medications to help reduce symptoms. Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine and benzodiazepines like lorazepam and diazepam work by blocking signals that cause muscle contractions in the jaw area, reducing muscle tension.
Protect Your Oral Health with TruBlu Dentistry
If you have bruxism, visit your dentist to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. TruBlu Dentistry’s team of dentists and hygienists can provide tailored care for your individual dental needs. Contact our office in Burbank to discuss your treatment options.