As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Hamid Ryan Kazemi helps many of his patients combat bruxism, or teeth grinding. A large number of people grind or clench their teeth while sleeping on occasion. Sporadic grinding does not typically lead to damage. However, when it happens regularly, teeth can become damaged, and other complications can occur.
Why does bruxism happen?
There is much debate surrounding the specific causes of tooth grinding. However, there are a few factors that may lead to the habit. Stress, abnormal bites, and missing or crooked teeth are often associated with the condition. Other contributing factors may include:
-Suppressed frustration, or anger
-Competitive or overactive personalities
-Complications from disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
What are the biggest risk factors?
Some lifestyles or situations may increase a person’s likelihood of developing bruxism.
Age. Teeth grinding is not unusual in children. However, it should typically subside as they reach adolescence.
Stimulant use. Tobacco, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or illicit stimulant drugs may increase a person’s risk of teeth grinding.
Stress. Abnormal levels of anxiety are often associated with the habit. Anger or frustration may also play a role.
How to know if a person suffers from bruxism
In most cases, grinding happens during sleep cycles. Thus, many people are unaware they have the condition. Certain signs might signal the habit, such as a sore jaw or consistent headaches. Other common symptoms of bruxism may include:
-Worn down, fractured, chipped, or flattened teeth
-Worn down enamel, which may expose inner layers of the tooth
-Pain, tiredness, or tightness in the jaw and surrounding muscles
-Earaches, headaches, or ongoing facial pain
-Damage on the inside of the cheek, caused by chewing
Dr. Kazemi suggests speaking with a dental professional if individuals fear they are nighttime tooth grinders. They can examine the mouth to look for signs of the condition.
How to prepare for an appointment
It is typically best to see a dentist first if an individual thinks they may grind their teeth at night. Because appointments are often brief, and there is a lot to discuss, Dr. Kazemi recommends coming prepared. He shares some helpful information for patients to get ready for their appointment and to know what to expect from their oral healthcare provider.
Understand any pre-visit restrictions. Before the appointment, ask if there is anything that needs to be done in advance. For example, if there were bruxism-related issues in the past, bring medical records regarding the condition.
Keep a list of symptoms. Write down any symptoms, even those that might seem unrelated to bruxism.
Write down all medications. Share this information with the dental professional, as well as any supplements or vitamins a patient might take.
Prepare questions in advance. Since there is a lot of ground to cover, patients should make sure they have all of their questions answered. Avoid skipping over important points by writing out specific concerns before the appointment. Some common questions may include:
-What is causing the condition?
-Are any tests required?
-What is the best treatment plan?
-Are there any alternatives to the approach that was suggested?
-Can the doctor provide any printed material to better explain the condition?
During the appointment, the doctor will also have questions to ask of the patient. If possible, write down the answers to the following questions and bring them along to the appointment.
-When did the symptoms begin?
-Are the symptoms chronic or occasional?
-How severe are the symptoms?
-Does anything improve or worsen the condition?
If the doctor notices any of the warning signs for bruxism, he or she may look for changes in a patient’s following visits. They may also conduct minor tests in the office to help confirm the diagnosis.
Patients might expect a dentist to look for tenderness in the jaw muscles. They may also search for abnormalities in the mouth, such as missing or broken teeth. Furthermore, patients may expect to be examined for damage in the teeth, oral bones, and the inside of the cheeks.