Are your teeth a pain in the neck? Many people grind and clench their teeth. It's called Bruxism and can cause facial/jaw pain, headaches, neck/muscle pain as well as excessive wear on teeth. It is considered an unintentional habit of biting down too hard at certain times, especially during sleep (sleep-related bruxism). Grinding is usually noisy and clenching is silent. Bruxism can range from mild to severe, and may cause the jaw to move out of proper alignment. About one in three people suffer from bruxism.
Bruxism can be brought about by stress, nervous tension, anger, pain and frustration. Type A personalities, and those who are aggressive, competitive, and always in a hurry can be at great risk. The bad news is that it is possible to have bruxism and not be aware of it until complications arise.
You may be a bruxer if you experience these symptoms:
Painful jaw joint
Popping or clicking of the jaw
Dull headache in the morning
Jaw muscles that continue to contract, and that are tight or painful (even to open your mouth in the morning)
Broken teeth, fillings and sore gums
Someone tells you that you grind your teeth while you sleep
Swelling of the lower jaw (muscles contracting then relaxing)
Long lasting pain in the face
Your dentist checks for physical signs of bruxism and monitors those signs. If the tips of your teeth look flat, the tooth enamel has been rubbed off because they are so worn down from clenching. This exposes the dentin on the inside of the tooth. If dentin is exposed it may cause tooth sensitivity. Another indicator is indentations on the tongue.
Once you've been diagnosed your dentist will pay particular attention to the muscles in and around your jaw. They will check for tenderness in the jaw muscles and joint. X-rays may be required of your teeth and jaw to check poor teeth alignment and how your bite comes together.
The good news is your dentist can treat Bruxism. Patients with less severe cases of bruxism can find relief by simply being aware they need to change their behavior by learning how to rest the tongue, teeth and lips properly. In some cases, the dentist will prescribe the lab to create a mouth appliance, like a night guard that is worn to absorb the force of biting. Thus preventing future damage to the teeth and helping to change the damaging behavior.
If teeth grinding is due to stress, there may be help with counseling or ways to promote relaxation, such as exercise and meditation.
Some children grind or clench their teeth. Let your family dentist know of the issue but most kids eventually grow out of bruxism and suffer no permanent damage to their teeth. If you are still concerned, your dentist can fit your child with a night guard to prevent excessive tooth wear.
If bruxism is treated properly and in a timely manner, the outlook is excellent.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.