Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw or pain in your mouth, wondering what must have happened to you during the night? If you wake up with tension or pain in your face and neck, you could be experiencing bruxism.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be done when you are awake or asleep, the latter being more problematic because you may not be conscious of the damage you can incur to teeth and bones. While mild cases of bruxism may not require treatment, persistent pain in the jaw can be an indicator that damage is being done to the teeth and jaw. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding so you can consider treatment options to alleviate discomfort.
Symptoms of bruxism
Some symptoms of nighttime teeth grinding include:
- Grinding or clenching of the jaw, which may be painful enough to wake you up
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth pain and sensitiviey
- Flat, fractured, and chipped teeth
- Tired and tight jaw muscles
- Soreness in the neck and face
- Persistent headache and ear pain
- Damage to the soft tissue inside your cheeks
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is advised that you see a doctor or dentist to confirm a diagnosis of bruxism and receive proper treatment.
What causes bruxism?
While we aren’t completely sure what causes bruxism, we consider a number of factors when recommending treatment, such as psychological, physical, and genetic conditions that play a role in excess tension and stress. Many medical professionals agree that any type of bruxism, whether waking or sleeping, is due to excess stress, anxiety, and repressed emotion that the body has not found a safe outlet for.
Are there risks associated with developing this condition?
You may be more at risk for developing bruxism if you:
1. Are under a great deal of stress. Increased stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration are a common complaint of many patients who experience teeth grinding.
2. Are under a certain age. Bruxism is more common in children than adults, and it most often corrects itself by the time a person has reached adulthood.
3. Are taking certain medications and other substances. Teeth grinding may be an unwelcome side effect of certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants. The use of recreational drugs, alcohol, and tobacco may also contribute to its development in adults.
4. Have family members with bruxism. This condition tends to pop up in families. See your doctor as soon as possible if you have family members who have been diagnosed with this condition.
5. Have other disorders which contribute to its development. Bruxism can be associated with other medical and mental disorders, such as dementia, acid reflux disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and other sleep-related disorders. It has also been present in those who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Evaluation and treatment
Your dentist is trained to detect signs of bruxism; talk to your dental professional first if you suspect that this is a problem for you or for children in your household. Your dentist may ask you questions about general health, daily routines, medications, and sleep habits which may contribute to its development.
If your dentist suspects that teeth grinding is an issue, he/she will conduct a thorough dental examination that assesses bone density, tooth health, and overall condition of your face structure. You may be referred to a sleep medicine specialist to undergo a study of your nighttime habits and provide recommendations for reducing teeth grinding. In cases where psychological issues and anxiety are present, you may be referred to a therapist to uncover the root cause of your stress.
In many cases, formal treatment of bruxism is not necessary. Many people outgrow bruxism without extensive treatment. In cases where symptoms and habits persist, dental approaches and medications can be provided to reduce tooth damage and relieve discomfort. Talk to your dental professional to find out which options might work best for you.
Options for treatment
Splints and mouth guards can be worn to separate teeth and keep them from grinding together. These are usually constructed from either soft material or hard acrylic and designed to fit over upper and lower teeth. They can be worn while awake or while asleep.
If your bruxism has led to tooth damage, your dental professional may need to fortify or reshape chewing surfaces to reduce pain and make chewing more efficient once more.
Other options for treatment include stress and anxiety management, behavioral therapy, and the use of muscle relaxants to reduce nighttime muscle spasms associated with grinding.
Life with a beautiful, strong, and healthy smile
It is possible to regain your healthy, strong smile once more after a bruxism diagnosis. Sleep and Internal Medicine Specialists in Fort Lauderdale are ready to help you with innovative treatment methods designed to help you regain your smile and your confidence once more. If you or a member of your family suffers from bruxism, don’t hesitate. Contact us today to see how we can put you back on the path to less stress, better health, and a beautiful, vibrant smile.