Bruxism, or the clenching or grinding of teeth, affects 30 to 40 million adults and children in the United States. Most of them, however, are probably not even aware that they are doing it.
People affected by bruxism unconsciously clench their teeth during the day or grind them at night while they sleep. Night grinding is referred to as sleep or nocturnal bruxism. If left unchecked, grinding and clenching can lead to damaged teeth and jaw disorders. With proper attention and care, however, it is possible to prevent this habit from becoming a much bigger dental problem.
How could you find out if you are one of the millions of people suffering from bruxism? There are a number of symptoms, and many of them stem from stress. In rarer cases, though, it can be due to certain diseases that affect nerves and muscles in the face. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be a “bruxer” and just not know it.
Symptoms of Bruxism include:
- Jaw muscle spasms
- Dull headache in the morning
- Tight and painful jaw muscles
- Long-lasting pain in the face
- Damaged teeth
- Painful jaw joints
- Swelling of the lower jaw
There are plenty of ways to treat Bruxism, both dentally and at home. By visiting your dentist, they can examine your mouth and talk with you to determine the following:
- What you eat
- If you have good posture
- if your teeth are not aligned
- The amount of stress in your life
- How frequently you relax
- Other habits
During this examination, your dentist will be paying special attention to the muscles in and around your jaw. The dentist will also look at your teeth for evidence of premature wear caused by grinding and will check for tenderness in your jaw muscles and the jaw joint. He or she will also look for broken teeth, missing teeth and poor tooth alignment. Based on that exam, a treatment plan can be created. Night guards and splints are the most common way to help someone afflicted with bruxism. These devices reduce pressure on the teeth that can be caused by clenching and help separate the teeth from grinding against one another.
Bruxism can also be treated at home through deliberate change in eating, sleeping and stress habits. Here are several home remedies that can help combat bruxism aside from using an oral appliance:
- Drink plenty of water
- Get plenty of sleep
- Stretch daily
- Learn relaxation techniques
- Apply ice or moist heat to sore jaw muscles
- Avoid eating hard foods like nuts, candies or steak (softer diet necessary)
- Massage the muscles of the neck, shoulders and face
- Try to frequently relax you face and jaw muscles
- Pay attention to other habits while awake and try to keep teeth apart
Keep in mind that these techniques are primarily used to help ease pain. They do not replace a visit to your dentist. If you are concerned that you are suffering from bruxism, see your dentist first and make sure you do not already have any damaged or loose teeth.
The long-term effects of bruxism can cause permanent tooth damage, jaw pain and head or ear aches. The good news is that an appointment with your dentist can help confirm that you have bruxism and guide you on the next step in maintaining your oral health.
If you live in the Southlake area and have been dealing with any of the listed symptoms, call Fuqua Advanced Dental today and we will be happy to check out your smile.