Teeth Grinding: Cause of Slow Decay and Eventual Tooth Loss

Does your jaw ache when you wake up in the morning? Are your teeth sensitive to the touch? Does the act of brushing your teeth actually hurt you? If you experience any of this, you more like than not suffer from a condition called bruxism.
Bruxism—a really fancy term for “teeth grinding”—is extremely common. In fact, 30 to 40 million people nationwide suffer from it, both children and adults alike. However, because grinding usually occurs either while asleep or in times of extreme emotion, most people don’t know that they have it. After all, other than the occasional sore smile, there are no immediately noticeable symptoms.
But just because there aren’t any noticeable symptoms, that doesn’t mean that bruxism is harmless. Bruxism can cause a lot of damage to your teeth—fillings can be ground away, tooth enamel rubbed away and dentin (the tissue beneath the enamel) exposed. When the dentin becomes exposed, extreme sensitivity to hot and colds occurs. Bruxism is also responsible for jaw dysfunction (also known as Temporomandibular Jaw Disorder, or TMD for short), chronic headaches and unexplained facial pain.
Many times, a patient won’t realize they experience Bruxism until their dentist tells them. However, you can determine for yourself if you suffer from this common condition by looking out for the following symptoms:
· Rhythmic contractions of the jaw muscles
· Grinding sound at night – this is generally noticed by your sleep partner
· Dull headaches in the morning
· Tight, painful jaw muscles
· Discomfort when opening your mouth, especially in the morning
· Chronic facial pain
· Swollen jaw
Treatment: Because bruxism can have a number of likely causes, there isn’t just one standard treatment. However, if we can determine the cause of your case, we can establish the right solution.
Stress: As I stated earlier, bruxism can stem from extreme emotions, the most common of those emotions being stress. If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, the solution is simple: De-stress. How to go about de-stressing, however, is an entirely different story. Some dentists might recommend you seek professional counseling, while others swear by exercise. If neither of those options seems like a good fit for you, you could try a relaxing medication, such as Valium. If you choose to go the medication route, know that you won’t have to be on it for long—generally, 1 to 2 weeks will do the trick. Some dentists may even prescribe a medication that is meant to relax the jaw and ease spasms. If none of this helps, you may have to wear a mouth guard or, in extreme cases, see an oral surgeon.
Dental Problems: In some instances, bruxism is a result of tooth problems. If this is the case, your dentist will need to correct tooth alignment – either with onlays, crowns, a mouth guard or bite splint – in order to reshape the biting surface of your teeth. Doing this will help prevent further damage to the teeth, and may even help to realign your jaw muscles.
Medicines: Some medicines are known to cause bruxism, especially antidepressants. If your medicine is the cause, your may want to switch medications, or at least get one that will counteract the bruxism side effect.
Bruxism, if not treated properly, can become a very serious condition. If you don’t treat it right away, it could eventually result in loose teeth, cracked or broken teeth and lost fillings. Don’t let you’re your grinding get out of hand – see your dentist today if you think you suffer from Bruxism before the damage become irreversible. Visit http://www.grandforksdentistry.com/home/ to see how we can help you.

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