Bellingham Dentist

Teeth Grinding: Bruxism

What You Need To Know about Teeth Grinding

Grinding or teeth clenching involves moving the jaw with the teeth held together. It’s called bruxism. It’s a fairly common reaction in some people during periods of concentration, anger, or stress, and often occurs without the person realizing it even if wide awake. If the condition occurs with some degree of frequency and severity it may lead to enamel erosion, dentin exposure and sensitivity or pain. So if a person becomes aware of it, the habit can potentially be stopped or reduced by modifying behavior.

Bruxism during sleep is very different from bruxism while awake. Sleep bruxism is not under a person’s conscious control and usually occurs throughout the night during periods of arousal as a person goes from a deep sleep to a lighter stage of sleep. This pattern may be repetitive many times during the night. Extreme forces generated by the jaws during grinding can result in overfatigue of the jaw muscles – resulting in morning jaw pain and jaw dysfunction. Sleep bruxism is not effectively treated by behavior modification or awareness and requires a different therapeutic approach. It also may be associated with a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Are you in the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth at night?

If you are not aware, here are some symptoms you might be experiencing. Facial pain and fatigue, especially in the jaw area, are common. Many who suffer from bruxism wake up with headaches, they have difficulty opening and closing their mouths, or feel a stiffness around the temporomandibular joint. If left untreated, bruxism can result in teeth becoming painful, sensitive or loose. Teeth may crack, chip or show wear in the enamel. Will your sleeping partner notice your teeth grinding? It’s possible the grinding noise can wake up your bedmate. However, bruxism can also be silent.

What causes bruxism?

Mainly, it’s physical or emotional stress. Physical factors that result in stress include fitness level of the body, nutritional state, and sleep habits. External emotional stressors can include finances, work and relationship issues. Children are not immune to stress either and sometimes it shows up as teeth grinding.

Treatment involves a visit to the dentist. Your dentist will help you ascertain the cause of the stress that might eliminate the grinding and clenching habits. Relaxing routine before bed can be helpful, like yoga, or a cup of tea or a warm bath. Jaw exercises can soothe and relax your overused muscles. A night guard can also be prescribed to cushion teeth during grinding and clenching.

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Beating Bruxism in Bellingham

If you are suffering from headaches, jaw pain and fatigue, and sometimes painful teeth, come see us soon at Tetrick Family Dentistry in Bellingham.