Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time. Bruxism is when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis and the person is not aware of it. The teeth can be damaged and several oral health complications can arise.

In this issue, we will discuss teeth grinding and how it can lead to several oral health complications.

Teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety. It often occurs during sleep and is more likely to be caused by a bad bite, stress, missing or crooked teeth. Also, it can be caused by sleep apnea.

I often see patients whose teeth appear very short. Many of them are unaware of the significance of their “short” teeth. As far as they are concerned, there are no problems.

Teeth are considered short when the height of a front tooth is shorter than the width of the tooth. Some front teeth are severely worn or fractured and they are wider as they as tall. Also, some teeth are a bit loose, yet some patients are unaware.

Another patient presents with the complaint of constant headaches. They are awaked with a headache that remains during the day and sometimes feel like it is behind their eyes.

Lastly, there is a patient who presents with the complaint of recent sudden teeth sensitivity. They didn’t have sensitivity as a child or early adulthood, but as they age, their teeth have become more and more sensitive.

What do these four patients have in common? They all suffer from a dental problem called, Bruxism.

Bruxism, is a common involuntary habit where there is continual grinding of their teeth. Many people brux or grind whether they are aware or not. We tend to think that bruxers make a loud noise, however this not the usual case. Babies and small children tend to make noticeable sounds when they grind their teeth; however, adults tend to be less noticed.

Also, snorers brux although most times during snoring their mouth is open.

When you brux, your jaw muscles go into overdrive. The nerves that control the muscles of your jaw continue to fire impulses. Just like if you lift weights constantly for a long time, your muscle will become sore. The same apply to your jaw muscles. Sore jaw muscles receive the same impulses by the same nerves that causes headaches. This means if your jaw muscles are tender, you may also get a headache. If you wake up with a headache, this could mean you were bruxing during the night.

Teeth grinding is harmful to your oral health. In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing, severely worn or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, you are forced to introduce the added dental expenses of bridges, crowns, roots canals, implants, partial dentures and in worse cases full dentures.

Not only can grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws resulting in TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain and complications.

Bruxism can be managed by your dentist by constructing a mouth guard.

A mouth guard is a dental appliance custom fitted for the top of your teeth. The mouth guard protects your muscles controlling your jaws and protects your teeth from being worn down. Patients usually wear a mouth guard during their sleeping hours.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your physician or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Adding stress-management techniques including a consistent exercise program is always beneficial. Seeing a physical therapist or sometimes receiving a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that are available.

If a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit. Treating bruxism can reduce chronic headaches, jaw pain, enamel destruction, fractured dental work, tooth sensitivity, early tooth loss and finally future dental expenses.

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected]

Severely worn teeth from grinding (Bruxism)

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