Teeth grinding: More than an audible nuisance

Teeth grinding may sound bad to the person sleeping next to you, however, many sufferers do not even know they are doing it until they start having jaw pain, headaches and more. Find out what causes teeth grinding and what can be done to prevent and treat it.

Woman grinding teeth

It is estimated that 82 million Americans are damaging their teeth from teeth grinding, also called bruxism.

“Grinding can cause a number of problems, such as seriously wearing down your teeth, loosening the teeth, gum reduction, jaw joint problems and may be a cause of headaches during the day,” says Dr Michael Apa, DDS, who boasts a celebrity clientele which includes Matt Dillon, Chloe Sevigny, Bridget Hall and Vera Wang.

Michael Liberto, DDS says it is important to get treatment to stop tooth damage and pain. “Teeth grinding is a mostly unconscious habit; most patients are not aware that they grind their teeth,” he says. “It is probably not possible to stop the habit, but once recognized can be successfully managed to prevent or minimize tooth damage, fractures, wear and pain, aggravating periodontal (gum) issues, and complicating TMJ symptoms and related facial pain, mostly related to muscle spasms.”

Causes of teeth grinding

Most people will grind or clench their teeth occasionally, but when it happens on a regular basis, it can cause damage to your teeth and pain in your jaw. Dr Liberto lists the following as causes of teeth grinding:

  • Anxiety, tension, anger
  • Subconscious habit
  • Malocclusion, (malaligned bite, new inaccurate dental work)
  • Growth and development in children

Treatment of teeth grinding

Dr Apa says that it is important to schedule regular dental appointments so your dentist can screen for signs of teeth grinding and can treat you for it before it causes too much damage to your teeth.

“I encourage patients to train themselves not to clench or grind their teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax,” he says.

Exper tipsOther treatment options for teeth grinding, according to Dr Liberto, include the following:

  • Proper diagnosis by a knowledgeable dentist is an essential first step.
  • Evaluation of the stability, proper alignment, function of your jaw and health of your jaw joint (TMJ) is critical.
  • Occlusal adjustment (spot adjustments to the way upper and lower teeth touch and function) will take place once “interferences” are identified. “This is one of the most effective and important components of successful treatment,” Dr Liberto says.
  • Night Guards (Bruxism Appliance) are fabricated and balanced to minimize tooth damage and aid in bringing the jaw and its muscles to a “peaceful” state. This will allow relief of symptoms and a return to healthy function. “Beware! Not all night guards are the same!” he warns.
  • Occasionally medications (antidepressants/muscle relaxers) and physical therapy are effective.

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