Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, is an oral parafunctional activity that commonly occurs in most people at some point in their lives. The two main characteristics of this condition are grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. These actions usually occur during a person’s sleeping hours, but occasionally they occur during the day.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders. Chewing is a neuromuscular activity controlled by a subconscious process, but more highly controlled by the brain. During sleep, the subconscious process may become active, resulting in bruxism. The most common symptoms are earaches, headaches, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and chronic stress. More recently, there is also evidence to suggest that many bruxism patients suffer from sleep apnea. If you are a snorer, have restless sleep patterns, wake up less than refreshed from sleep, or need frequent naps, these may be signs of sleep apnea, and this may warrant a more thorough examination.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
- Gum recession. Bruxism may be a contributing factor in gum recession and tooth loss. Grinding can damage the soft tissue directly and lead to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria are able to colonize and destroy the supporting bone.
- Facial pain. Grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the jaw and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
- Occlusal trauma. The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to fractures, which, if left untreated, may require restorative treatment or extraction at a later time.
- Arthritis. In the most severe cases, bruxism can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints that allow the jaw to open and close smoothly.
Though there is no known cure for bruxism, we can oftentimes reduce the destructive nature of a grinding habit with the fabrication of a bruxism appliance known as a night guard or occlusal guard. As the name suggests, these guards are used to protect your teeth from the destructive forces associated with bruxism. They are typically worn at night on a long term basis. They are custom made to your bite, a much different product than you can find over the counter at your local drug store.
Once your bruxism is under control, we can perform a variety of dental procedures to restore the pleasant aesthetic appearance to your smile such as crown application, gum grafts, and crown lengthening. Dr. Hyde, Dr. Greising and Dr. Tzanos will work in coordination with your dentist to provide an occlusal guard for you if it is indicated.