Teeth Grinding: What is it and Why is it unhealthy?

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Many people suffer from teeth grinding, known medically as bruxism, especially during the night while they are asleep. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that as many as eight percent of adults grind their teeth during the night.

In one study published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children, 38 percent of parents reported teeth grinding in their children. The National Sleep Foundation also reports that sleep-related bruxism declines with age, with an estimated three percent of adults 60 years of age or older experiencing sleep grinding.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition in which you clench, gnash or grind, your teeth. Occasional teeth grinding isn’t usually harmful, but when it occurs regularly, it can lead to adverse effects, include teeth damage and health complications.

Many patients with this disorder don’t even realize that the grinding of their teeth is the root cause of the after-effect symptoms, like sensitive teeth and headaches.Left untreated, teeth grinding can wear down the protective enamel layers of the tooth surfaces. In severe cases where you’ve had the condition for an extended period of time, even your under-enamel dental surfaces can be adversely affected.

It’s important for parents to monitor their children’s sleeping habits, and if their child exhibits some of the classic symptoms of teeth grinding, their pediatric dentist should be told immediately.

Teeth Grinding Habits and Frequent Symptoms

The longer your tooth grinding behavior continues, the better the chances of developing symptoms, both mild and more serious, including:

  • Toothaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Headache
  • Erosion of protective teeth enamel
  • Earaches
  • Disrupted sleep
  • TMJ or Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
  • Worn down teeth
  • Facial pain
  • Fractured or broken teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Dislodged fillings

Causes of Teeth Grinding

One or a combination of factors could be causing your teeth grinding.

  • Being under stress.
  • Being anxious
  • Having a sleep disorder
  • Taking certain medications, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
  • Having a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, sleep paralysis
  • Drinking alcohol, especially in the hours before bedtime
  • Smoking
  • Drinking many caffeinated drinks, especially in the hours before bedtime
  • Having broken or misaligned teeth
  • Having a drug abuse problem (particularly recreational drugs).

A November 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association suggests a relationship between teeth grinding and alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use.

Teeth Grinding in Children

If you suspect your child is grinding his or her teeth, he or she should be assessed for any stress, anxiety issues, unusual anger episodes or frightening experiences to help the dentist determine the full extent of the necessary treatment regimen.

A dentist can create a form of your mouth (or your child’s) to create a perfectly matched comfortable device that’s able to be worn while asleep. Some of these newer models are less bulky, are made of a clear material that is usually not noticed by others and it is easy to care for too.

How Misaligned Teeth Causes Teeth Grinding Issues

While excessive stress is a common culprit in some individual’s tooth grinding actions, other reasons stem from altered teeth positions, broken or missing teeth or bridges and other teeth positioning problems. The good news here is that when the dentist treats the main current cause of teeth grinding, the problem typically goes away.

Your dentist may need to replace broken or missing teeth or create better fitting crowns of bridges. The dentist can also build up teeth that have been worn down from teeth grinding. In some cases, your dentist (or your child’s) may refer you to an orthodontist who specializes in effectively and gently moving teeth back into a healthy position.

It’s Best to Fix Misaligned Teeth Early to Avoid Speech and Eating Problems

Many people are unaware of how important good alignment of your teeth is to good dental health. When teeth get out of alignment, the mouth compensates for this difference by using other teeth and mouth structures to eat and speak. This can cause serious problems because if smaller teeth resort to chewing harder foods, those teeth can be negatively impacted by being worn down, fractured, or even broken.

Over time, facial bone structures can change as a result of ongoing teeth grinding.  Sometimes, dentists can perform root canals to diminish some of the pain, perform dental implants or dentures depending on patient age and conditions. Patients suffering severe insomnia can have a sleep study done to determine the causes and develop an appropriate treatment.

Common Treatments for Teeth Grinding

Mouth Guard

Your dentist will devise an exact matching teeth device to wear while the patient sleeps. This soft material is comfortable and keeps the patient from harming their teeth as the mouth device will protect against any grinding motions. The mouth guard is intended to not only relieve pressure from grinding and clenching your teeth, but also protect them.

You can also teach you ways to decrease jaw and mouth stress by simple strategies that work.

Stress Reduction Techniques

People prone to anxiousness should lower caffeine, quit smoking, avoid alcohol and practicing anxiety decreasing and relaxation skills, using yoga, prayer and meditation, as examples.

Correcting Dental Issues

Dental procedures, such as correcting a misaligned bite, reducing “high spots” on teeth, or reshaping or reconstructing the surfaces of your teeth with inlays and onlays are all ways that dentists can help to alleviate teeth grinding.

If you or your child is experiencing teeth grinding symptoms, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible.


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