It’s estimated that 8% of Americans suffer from bruxism, a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth. Teeth grinding is commonly associated with stress or personal habits, but it can also be due to sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or missing/crooked teeth.
Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. People who grind their teeth at night tend to have accompanying sleep disorders, such as snoring or pauses in breathing (sleep apnea). You may not realize that you have bruxism. Here are a few symptoms of teeth grinding:
Teeth grinding does not always cause serious complications. However, it can cause problems such as chronic headaches, damage to teeth or restorations, facial pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and even facial changes.
Arguably, one of the biggest dangers that bruxism poses to your dental health is how it impacts the gums. Over years, untreated bruxism will wear away at the gums, causing them to recede. Gum grafting becomes necessary to restore the lost tissue and maintain the teeth in position. Even with a gum grafting operation, bruxism can lead to more lost teeth in old age. If the gum is too worn away by that point, it can become impossible to conduct certain restorative surgeries later on, such as implantation.
To rule out airway issues due to sleep apnea, a sleep study is often suggested as a first step to addressing bruxism. This is because grinding the teeth is the body’s natural reaction during sleep when an airway is blocked. Treating the airway in these cases is key to solving the grinding problem.
For people suffering from grinding during sleep, a bruxism night guard fitted by the dentist can provide a long-term solution. Be sure to talk with a dentist about the right mouth guard, to ensure a healthy fit. The guard may take time to get used to, but it will protect your teeth at night.
Other treatments may include dietary changes, postural modifications, orthodontics, dental work and medications. If you notice yourself clenching your teeth during the day, try to be more self-aware and consciously release the jaw muscles before they clench.
Penn dentists are highly trained in treating a range of jaw disorders, including TMJ and grinding problems. If you have reason to think that you may have bruxism (night or day), it’s important to get help sooner rather than later. A consultation with a professional will give you the assessment you need to know whether bruxism is something you need to address over the long term. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss your concerns with the dentist and consider possible solutions, once the appropriate tests are administered.
Don’t let teeth grinding become your normal—it’s not healthy and it can hurt your dental health in the future. Call Penn Dental Family Practice for your appointment today at 215-898-7337(PDFP).