What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is an often misunderstood condition but simply put, it is an unconscious behavior where sufferers clench and grind their teeth. Bruxism can occur while awake or asleep. Bruxism is very common, afflicting roughly 8% of adults in the US.
What Causes Bruxism?
Bruxism can have many causes and it is often difficult to determine causality even for trained professionals. Waking bruxism is more closely associated with stress than is night-time grinding. Night-time grinding has more elusive causes and they can often be numerous. Some evidence points to improperly aligned teeth. Other less obvious causes include: stress, dehydration, medication side effects, and illicit drug use.
What Problems can Bruxism Lead to?
Bruxism, if left untreated, can lead to some serious dental problems. These problems include:
- Dental attrition - the flattening of tooth surfaces
- Dental abfraction - the loss of tooth structure
- Hypersensitivity, damage to existing dental work, and even tooth loss.
- Gradual wearing down of the protective outer-layer of the tooth known as enamel, exposes the dentin below.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ.
- High dental co$t
What can we do about Bruxism?
Bruxism is commonly left undiagnosed and some people don’t take steps to stop it even if they are aware of it. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to lessen the harmful effects of bruxism. Depending on if you are a night or day-time grinder, there are different solutions. First, let’s talk about day-time grinding. Day-time bruxism is best treated with behavioral adjustments or lifestyle modifications.
Some lifestyle modifications include:
- Avoid stimulants (Caffeine) and Depressants (Alcohol)
Night-time grinding is the type you hear about more often because it it has the worst side effects. A simple preventative measure is to ask our sleeping partners to wake us up when they hear the grinding and clicking sounds. The best solution is to wear a night time guard.
There are many night-time guards on the market including custom dentist-made guards but these can be prohibitively expensive. Most people don’t like wearing night guards to bed because of how large they can feel in the mouth. You should try to find a guard that offers adequate protection while maintaining a minimal profile.
However you decide to deal with your bruxism, just make sure something is done. Leaving bruxism untreated is the worst thing you can do and can lead to painful and expensive dental problems that are hard to fix after the fact.