Tooth Grinding, Bruxism
By Fashun Smith
Tooth grinding, called bruxism, affects a large portion of adults—estimates range from 50 to 95%. It usually occurs at night, while the bruxer isn’t aware of it to stop it. You may have been a tooth grinder for years without realizing it. But if this is the case, how are you supposed to tell? How do treat it? And what’s so bad about it, anyway?
Bruxism is caused by a number of problems, but two of the main ones are stress and internalized anger. Too much work, too little sleep, too much worry, can all build up frantic energy in the body that finds an outlet only when you sleep, by letting itself out upon your teeth. Internalized anger occurs in people who have anger problems, but repress them—again, the repressed energy builds up. It has to go somewhere.
These, you may think, are problems that come with life. What are you to do about them? Relaxation techniques like Yoga help for some. Another way to cut down on your stress is to first cut down on your caffeine intake. Just a few less cups of coffee a week could make the difference between full, healthy teeth, and eroded white lumps.
Other causes are less personal in nature—tooth grinding can also be caused by calcium deficiency, parasites like pinworms, and an abnormal bite. If you discover that you are grinding your teeth, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist. A dentist can recommend medicines and activities to rid yourself of the grinding problem. If your bruxism is caused by an abnormal bite, you may have to wear a mouth guard to prevent your teeth from knocking together. Over time, this mouth guard will reshape your bite until it (the mouth guard) is no longer necessary.
Now that you know how to prevent it, how can you tell if you have it in the first place? This is made more difficult if you live alone and no one is there to be bothered by the noise you make grinding your teeth at night. But there’s no need to worry, because the results manifest themselves physically. Some signs that you may be grinding are headaches, pain and tiredness in the muscle of the face, locking of the jaw (along with noises such as clicking), and sensitive teeth. These signs don’t necessarily point toward bruxism, but if you notice any of them it’s best to check with a doctor anyway, to be safe.
Tooth grinding does not always lead to harm. If you do it infrequently, then it may have no effect. But if you do it often, it can become serious, causing extensive damage to the jaw that may require surgery. It can also, in its most severe instances, cause hearing loss. So if you begin to experience frequent headaches and notice a wearing of the teeth, go see your dentist. This condition may grind away out of mind, but if allowed to continue unabated, it won’t be out of sight for too long.
The chalky, sometimes squeaking, sound of tooth grinding can alert your partner to your problem, even while you remain asleep and unaware. Other tell-tale signs include tooth wear, headaches, sensitive teeth, and fatigue and pain in the muscles of the face. Tooth grinding, called bruxism, is a condition with a variety of causes. Stress, calcium deficiency, pinworms, and an abnormal bite are all causes of tooth grinding. If your bruxing is caused by stress, it can be easily cured by relaxation techniques and cutting down on things like coffee and soda. However, if it is caused by any of the latter, it is best to consult a dentist for treatment. Since multiple factors can contribute to bruxism, you should see your dentist at the first realization of tooth grinding—neglecting it can lead to more serious problems, such as hearing loss.
About the author
Fashun Smith is a freelance writer and consumer advocate for CheckMyDentist.com, helping visitors locate a Dentist Houston and across the country. http://www.checkmydentist.com/art/dentist_houston.html.