Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a fairly common problem. It affects about 20% of the adult population, so if you suffer from it please know that you’re not alone. While teeth grinding may sound simple, it has several possible causes and a variety of potential treatments. The key to finding the one that’s right for you lies in understanding the causes, symptoms, and effects of teeth grinding and in working closely with your dentist in finding the right solutions.
Symptoms and Causes of Teeth Grinding
So how do you know if you grind your teeth? For many of us, the news comes when our sleeping partner informs us that we do. It’s a fairly distinctive sound, so people in your household may notice and let you know. For those of us who live alone, we may need to look for some other symptoms. Some of the more common ones include:
- Painful or sensitive teeth
- Decreasing facial lift, eg the corners of your mouth droop or drop
- Facial pain
- Difficulty chewing or speaking
- Marks or sore spots on the inside of your cheeks
- Dull pain in your temples or the bottom of your jaw
If you notice any of these symptoms persistently, it could be time to mention them to your doctor or dentist. They’ll know what else to check for to confirm if the cause is teeth grinding or if there’s something else amiss.
So, speaking of causes, what causes teeth grinding? That’s a tricky question, as there are many possible causes and it all depends on your situation. Some of the more common causes of teeth grinding are:
- TMJ, also known as a temporomandibular joint disorder
- Smoking or alcohol use
- Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea
- Improper teeth or jaw alignment
- Some medications which interfere with sleep or breathing
Your health care provider will likely want to discuss all aspects of your lifestyle that may be related to or cause teeth grinding. This conversation will help them find the solution, so please be candid and honest.
Treatments for Teeth Grinding
The right treatment for teeth grinding will likely depend on its cause. Your dentist will want to discuss your lifestyle, the hows, and whys of when you grind your teeth, and likely do a full exam to see what damage if any has occurred. Teeth grinding can cause permanent tooth damage and even tooth loss, so this step is critical. Once all that’s done, your dentist may suggest any of several treatments. Some of the more common include:
- Custom mouthguards to protect the teeth and prevent tooth grinding. This is the most common method of treatment, one of the most effective, and the one we are most likely to recommend.
- Temporary splints to realign the teeth and jaw to correct the root problem. Also known as the Seattle Protocol, this treatment works by gradually readjusting and re-training jaw position.
- Muscle relaxants to deal with jaw tension
- Therapy or other mental health treatment to deal with stress more effectively
- A reduction in caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol use
- Physical therapy to help realign the jaw
Generally speaking, teeth grinding is a treatable condition, so once you find the solution you should be on your way to recovery. If teeth grinding is a concern for you or a member of your family, give us a call today. We’ll make an appointment and our friendly, helpful staff will guide you through the next steps!