Sometimes it’s hard for a person to know if they have bruxism. What is this common condition? It occurs when you clench your jaw or grind your teeth–most often at night when a person is asleep. Reducing stress and relaxing are not always cures for this condition, but there are simple changes that can make all the difference to your oral health. Bruxism can disrupt sleep and lead to tooth decay. Grinding the teeth can lead to flattened teeth, tooth fractures, receding gums, tooth pain, hot/cold sensitivity and even symptoms of headaches or migraines during the day. Bruxism is attributed to stress and anxiety but could also be a sign of an abnormal bite or crooked and missing teeth. Many professionals will also look to sleep apnea as a cause. At Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies, we treat patients for bruxism with a simple night guard that makes a world of a difference to relieve pressure on the teeth from clenching and prevent the teeth from being flattened and broken. If you have any of the symptoms we listed above, or know that you grind your teeth at night, we urge you to make an appointment with us today to be fitted for a night guard. This simple change can protect your teeth for many years to come.
Bruxism is the term used to describe the clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth that most often happens at night in the early stages of sleep. This happens during the day as well (most often in females), but our patients will notice it and stop the clenching or grinding. At night, it can be harder to control, as it usually happens unintentionally and is most commonly a sign of stress or anxiety. In certain cases, it can alert a dentist that you have an abnormal bite or your mouth is responding to crooked or missing teeth. Bruxism can be detrimental to your oral health because of what it can do to your teeth. Grinding the teeth can lead to flattened teeth, tooth fractures, receding gums, tooth pain, hot/cold sensitivity and even symptoms of headaches or migraines during the day. Notice how we said tooth fractures? A person can literally break a tooth off in the night from clenching and grinding if it is severe. With bruxism, the incisors and the canines of the teeth move against each other, coupled with intense pressure from the jaw. The incisors are the front 4 teeth on top and bottom in the front part of the mouth. The canines are the “eye teeth”, or the pointed teeth (2 on top and 2 on bottom) in the front of the mouth. This condition is also common with grinding the molar teeth as well.
About 14%-20% of children suffer from bruxism after their incisors have come into the mouth, whereas in studies done by the government, only about 3% of those over 60 years are aware of frequent grinding. Researchers also know that about 10% of the population as a whole suffers from bruxism, so it’s a common occurrence that we see often and know how to treat. The National Sleep Foundation has found links between grinding/clenching and alcohol consumption, caffeine, cigarette smoking, snoring, sleep apnea and fatigue. You may have to be tested for sleep apnea as well as bruxism for us to know the exact the cause of your problem. 70% of bruxism cases are attributed to the two main factors—stress and anxiety—which have become all too prevalent in our busy world.
If you have fractured a tooth or are experiencing frequent headaches, grinding/clenching could be the cause. Many dentists will find that their patients suffer from frequent temporal headaches (possibly every day) and it could stem from the pressure put on the jaw during the night. For some patients, a night guard will relieve the headaches while also taking care of the teeth and preventing wear and tear. The dentist will either fit you for a mold for a mouthguard, but will quite often order a sleep study beforehand to make sure that you actually have bruxism. With a sleep study, you can receive a bite strip as an overnight detection for grinding/clenching that monitors the motions of the jaw and teeth, as well as the pressure. There are numerous sleep studies with monitors that can also reveal grinding/clenching.
We definitely want to know if you suffer from grinding/clenching, because aside from fractures and tooth damage, this condition can also lead to breakage of dental restorations as well. The simplest method to relieving grinding/clenching is a mouthguard. Simple mouthguards that are fitted specifically for grinding/clenching are thicker than normal retainers or guards in the mouth. Some can be purchased over-the-counter but have shown to be much less effective than those made by a professional dentist. We treat your mouthguard much the same as we do a personal retainer. We will take a mold of your mouth and send that impression to a special lab. A grinding/clenching mouthguard will be made that can withstand pressures from the jaw and combat teeth grinding. It can also be used as a retainer if you have already received orthodontic care. We will usually only fit either the lower or upper (usually upper) part of the mouth for a mouth guard, as that is all that is needed to fix the problem.
The patients who opt for a professional-grade mouthguard for grinding/clenching have gone home and received amazing results. They experience much less temporal headaches and can get rid of that everyday headache that accompanies bruxism. Their teeth won’t grind against each other and the mouthguard will protect the teeth from pressures of clenching. A mouthguard can truly make a world of a difference for those who receive them. Plus, it’s such a simple process to get fitted for a guard. If you think you might suffer from bruxism, or have any questions about your teeth, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425 for your consultation.