Do you occasionally grind your teeth or clench your jaw when you are feeling stressed or angry? Most people experience this from time to time. However, when a patient does this unconsciously, especially during sleep, we call this bruxism—and it can wreak havoc on your oral health. In addition to the friction and damage from your teeth grinding against each other repeatedly, bruxism can make you more vulnerable to tooth decay, gum disease, and TMJ disorder.
Signs of Bruxism
Since many bruxers do their teeth grinding and jaw clenching when they are asleep, you may not even be aware you are doing it. Knowing some of the signs of bruxism can help you determine whether you may be unintentionally damaging your teeth when you sleep at night.
- Pain in the temples, especially upon waking
- A gritty feeling in the back of the mouth
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped, or broken
- Jaw pain or face pain
- Pain in the ear, or behind the ear
- Pain in the teeth or tooth roots
- Temperature sensitivity in the teeth
Patients who share a bed with someone may have partners who have heard grinding sounds when they sleep. However, if you sleep alone, out of earshot of your other family members, it’s entirely possible that you could grind your teeth and no one has ever overheard the tell-tale sound.
What Causes Bruxism?
Doctors aren’t entirely certain what causes bruxism, but it may be caused by physical, neurological, and/or genetic factors. It does have a tendency to run in families, but so do many other oral health conditions, so a direct connection is hard to pinpoint. It was once believed to be caused by stress, and in some patients it can certainly be triggered and exacerbated by psychological distress.
How is Bruxism Treated?
If your teeth have already sustained enamel damage from bruxism, there’s no specific cure that can turn back time. Individual teeth that may have been cracked or broken may need restoration with a dental crown, but there’s no way to put enamel back onto the teeth once it’s been lost.
However, we can prevent further enamel damage with a bruxism night guard. This device is worn in the mouth when you sleep at night to cushion the teeth and prevent them from grinding against each other. A night guard looks similar to other mouth guards and is customized to fit comfortably in your mouth. There are boil-and-bite versions of the night guard available in stores and online, but only a dentist-provided night guard can fit you properly and deliver the highest level of comfort and protection.
What Can Happen If You Neglect to Treat Bruxism?
It’s easy to imagine the damage teeth sustain when they are repeatedly pushed and ground together. Enamel can become eroded to the point that the inner layers become exposed. Teeth may become more brittle and prone to cracking and breaking. The back teeth may look flattened and ground-down from being pushed into the gums every night.
Beyond the damage you can easily visualize, bruxism can also make you more likely to develop TMJ disorder. If your jaw muscles are busy grinding the teeth together when you sleep, they may never get any rest. This can affect how the jaw opens and closes and you may develop temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ disorder an cause chronic pain in the jaw and neck, as well as headaches.
Contact Us to Learn More
If you think there’s a possibility that you might suffer from bruxism, contact Dr. Christopher Tye at Texas Oral Surgery Specialists. Dr. Tye is a dentist and an oral surgeon, so he can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism and TMJ disorder. Call us today at 817-552-3223 to make an appointment.