Do you often wake up with sore jaw muscles or a headache? How about general aching in the face, head or neck? Before you write it off as the effects of life’s everyday stressors, take a moment to consider that it might be something more.
Bruxism is a condition that causes you to grind, gnash or clench your teeth. People with bruxism may unconsciously clench their teeth throughout the day (i.e., awake bruxism) or clench or grind them while they sleep (i.e., sleep bruxism). Over time, untreated bruxism can lead to tooth pain and loose or chipped teeth. In some instances, parts of the teeth are literally ground away, and the surrounding bone and gum tissue are destroyed. It can also lead to painful jaw issues, such as temporomandibular joint disorder/dysfunction (TMD).
Unfortunately, most people with bruxism are unaware they suffer from the condition until obvious damage, such as chipped teeth, has occurred.
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
- Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
- Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear
- Dull headache starting in the temples
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
- Sleep disruption
While the exact cause of bruxism is not completely understood, it’s thought to be due to a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors.
Factors that potentially increase your risk of bruxism include:
- Stress – Increased anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding, as can anger and frustration.
- Personality – Having a personality type that is aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can increase your risk of bruxism.
- Medications – Bruxism may be an uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications, such as certain antidepressants.
- Caffeine & Tobacco – Use of tobacco products, caffeinated beverages or alcohol have been linked to an increased risk of bruxism.
- Genetics – Sleep bruxism tends to run in families. If you have bruxism, other members of your family also may have a history of it.
- Other Conditions – Bruxism can also be associated with medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Bruxism itself has no cure, but damage to the teeth can be reduced or eliminated with a combination of treatments. After a thorough examination, our team can help you determine the source of your bruxism and create a treatment plan based on the amount of tooth damage and its likely cause.
Common treatment methods include:
- Wearing an oral appliance while sleeping — Made specifically to fit your teeth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth to protect them from grinding against the lower teeth.
- Finding ways to relax — Because everyday stress seems to be a major cause of bruxism, anything that reduces stress can help.
- Reducing the “high spots” of one or more teeth – This procedure evens out your bite, to help teeth fit together. Abnormal bites may also be corrected with new fillings, crowns or orthodontics.
Not all cases of bruxism require treatment; however, if you or a loved one is experiencing painful symptoms, take the first step and contact one of our four locations (Denton, Plano, Decatur, Gainesville). Drs. Stewart and Michael and the entire team at Texas Oral Surgery Group is committed to delivering quality patient care and are happy to answer your questions.