Bruxism is the dental term for the habit of teeth grinding. Many people grind their teeth from time to time with little to no damage to the teeth or jaw. However, those who continually grind their teeth can cause serious damage to their teeth and other oral health complications can arise. Bruxism refers to any type of forceful contact between the teeth. This can be a loud and grating contact or a silent and clenching contact. Either form can cause serious damage to the teeth. Many are not aware that they have this condition because they exhibit a teeth grinding habit only in their sleep. However, bruxism can occur during waking hours as well. Adults and children can both suffer from bruxism. Alcohol, drugs, and certain sleep disorders can exacerbate this condition, making it worse. Children usually develop bruxism as a result of a cold or infection. Often pain from teething or earaches will induce teeth grinding in toddlers and children.
The cause of bruxism is still unknown. Doctors for TMJ are working to find the causative agent. However, it is believed that increased stress and anxiety can greatly affect how often and how severely you grind your teeth. Having an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth are also thought to contribute to teeth grinding.
Occasional bruxism may not result in damage to the teeth or jaw. However, chronic teeth grinding can cause serious dental issues. In some cases, grinding can result in tooth fracture, loosening of teeth, or the loss of teeth. Grinding over years without treatment can wear the teeth down to stumps, exposing the second layer of tooth structure which will require bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or possibly even dentures to repair, if the teeth cannot be saved. Not only is bruxism bad for your teeth, it is also damaging to the jaw. Teeth grinding can result in hearing loss, change the appearance of your face, TMD (temporomandibular disorder), chronic pain, headaches, and sore muscles. A doctor for TMJ can determine if your grinding habits are causing TMD.
Being fitted for an occlusal or night guard by a doctor for TMJ will help to protect your teeth from the effects of grinding while you sleep. However, in order to cease teeth grinding completely, it is important to treat the triggers for why you grind your teeth. If stress is causing your bruxism, ask your doctor or doctor for TMJ about stress reduction techniques and options. Exercise, stress counseling, or prescription muscle relaxers may help reduce how often or severely you grind your teeth.