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Bruxism, or the grinding and clenching of teeth, can happen when someone is awake or asleep. It’s a common dental complaint, with up to 30% of patients affected. Symptoms can be varied and can be visible both inside and outside the mouth.
Signs and symptoms:
The most common reason for patients to seek help is when they begin noticing chips and fractures of their teeth. Your dentist can spot other signs, such as tooth wear and soft tissue trauma along your cheeks and tongue. Other symptoms such as headaches, tight muscles and a sore jaw joint/earache may also be clues. Your dentist will do an examination of some of your chewing muscles and may find knots and trigger points, which you had not noticed before!
Besides stress, patients who have sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, may be at more risk of Bruxism. Certain medications or use of drugs/alcohol may also contribute. While the way your teeth bite together may not cause you to clench and grind, having teeth that are crooked could make you more likely to suffer chips.
With Bruxism, teeth may continue to chip, even after your dentist has repaired them, and you may notice that your fillings keep breaking. Over time, grinding teeth can wear away the enamel, and even into deeper teeth structures, often causing the need for more invasive treatments, like crowns.
Ideally, we would like to stop the clenching and grinding, but this is not always immediately possible. Often dentists try to reduce the strength of muscle contraction by using a bite guard on your teeth. This limits damage to your teeth by reducing chips and wear, but also helps to prevent the muscles from getting overworked and developing knots. The bite guard also aims to “de-program” the muscles and stop the clenching feedback cycle. Sometimes muscle relaxant injectables like Botox are also used on the jaw muscles.
It is important to look for an underlying cause for the clenching. Often, stress in our daily lives manifests as clenching and grinding at night. So, there may be merit to approaching the problem more holistically. Introducing stress-reducing activities like yoga and meditation into your daily routine may help reduce stress levels and reduce Bruxism.
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