Bruxism - Tooth Grinding and Clenching

Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, medically called bruxism. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.

If your bruxism is related to tooth problems, your dentist probably will correct tooth alignment. In severe cases, your dentist may need to use onlays or crowns to entirely reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth. The dentist also may make a mouth guard or bite splint that fits your mouth and teeth. This will help prevent further damage to the teeth. In some cases, it may help your teeth and muscles to realign.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.