Do you grind or clench your teeth often? Has your sleeping partner told you that he or she hears clicking noises when you sleep? Do you wake up with tired or tight jaw muscles which prevent your jaw from opening or closing properly? Do you wake up with dull headaches in the morning? Do you happen to have increased teeth sensitivity or pain? Have you noticed any constant flattening of the chewing surfaces of your teeth when you look in the mirror? Well, if your answer is yes, it is possible that you are experiencing a condition known as bruxism.
Teeth grinding, scientifically termed as bruxism, is a condition where individual clenches, grinds, or gnashes his or her teeth. This can occur when you are awake (awake bruxism) or when you are asleep (sleep bruxism). Sleep bruxism equally affects both males and females, however, awake bruxism is more common in males. It is also prevalent in all age groups. The cause of bruxism is currently unknown. However, it is due to a combination of physical, genetic, and psychological factors. Awake bruxism may be due to certain emotions exhibited such as stress, frustration and anxiety. Sleep bruxism may be related to a chewing activity associated with arousals during sleep.
Research suggests that the offspring of people who have bruxism are more likely to have bruxism. However, stressful situations such as work deadlines, examinations, divorce, family bereavement have also been suggested to increase bruxism. Some people grind their teeth as a coping mechanism in an attempt to concentrate. Certain prescribed medications and recreational drugs such as cocaine are also thought to be risk factors for bruxism. Caffeine and alcohol intake can also increase your chances of grinding your teeth. Dental-related risk factors include an abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crooked teeth.
Bruxism may present itself in several ways. Signs and symptoms include flattening of the chewing surfaces of teeth exposing the deeper layers, fractured teeth, clicking sounds that wake up your sleeping partner, increased teeth sensitivity, tired or tight jaw muscles that will not open or close completely, dull headaches, occasional earaches and sleep disruption. In extreme cases, one may realize a decrease in the height of the face due to the continuous wear of the teeth causing the teeth to become shorter
If your dentist suspects that you have bruxism, he or she may ask you several questions relating to your sleep habits, general health, medications, dental health, and daily routines at work or school. Your dentist will also check for worn-off, mobile, broken, or missing teeth, and damage to your teeth and underlying bone with the help of x-rays.
Treatment of bruxism requires gradual elimination of the root cause. It involves the management of stress or anxiety as well as a behavioural change. Devising ways to promote relaxation and finding ways to cope with your anxiety is the first step. The dental approach to bruxism is to preserve or improve the state of the teeth. This includes providing a night guard for the client which keeps the teeth separated when sleeping and prevents further wear. The dentist may also reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or use certain prosthesis such as crowns to replace the damaged teeth
In conclusion, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and seek regular dental care because you may have bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop.
AUTHOR: DR MICHAEL AWUA-MENSAH