Bruxism: Do you clench your teeth at night while you're sleeping? If yes, then you have a condition called bruxism. This term comes from the Greek word, "brychein" which means to grind or gnash the upper and lower rows of molar teeth's. This clenching of teeth linked with forceful lateral or protrusive movements of the jaw results in possibly harmful grinding of the teeth.
Bruxism usually doesn't cause serious problems but in excess, it can damage the teeth's occlusal surfaces especially the molar teeth. It can also contribute to the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) syndrome (inflammation of the joint that connects the mandible to the skull) as well as other sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea (pause in breathing during sleep).
Bruxism is common among children, although they can also affect adults. It occurs in one out of three children, often between the ages of five and seven. Children usually outgrow this condition but some don't. Short-term teeth grinding can cause damage to a child's permanent teeth. If you're suffering from this, you should see a dentist immediately. He/she will be able to determine if you are indeed grinding your teeth during sleep.
Having regular dental checkups is necessary since many people who grind their teeth at night don't know that they do unless their dentist or their partner/spouse tells them.
In other cases, people experience symptoms like:
- sore jaw
- loose teeth
- ringing of ears
- tooth sensitivity
Above symptoms help people figure out that there's something wrong and that they might be clenching their teeth during sleep.
During your visit to the dentist, he/she will help identify the probable causes of bruxism.
It may be due to a number of factors like:
- misaligned teeth
The dentist will help formulate an appropriate treatment based on the cause.
Treatments may include:
- mouth guard
- stress management
- dental splints (other names: bite splints, occlusal splints)
The bite splints are the most common method designed for the protection and stabilization of teeth against clenching and grinding. They are removable dental appliances carefully molded to fit the upper or lower arches of teeth.
For more serious cases, extensive dental procedures may be needed. For children, treatment is not always recommended since the condition is often outgrown.
When the dentist prescribes a treatment, it's very important that you stick with it. If you're advised to wear a mouth guard or bite splints, you need to follow instructions very carefully. It's not enough that you wear the device; you should ensure that you wear it the proper way. If not, that defeats the purpose of the device and your teeth clenching will not improve.
If the dentist recommends stress management techniques, it's important that you take this seriously. Since stress can aggravate teeth clenching, it's a must to practice relaxation methods so you'll have a more peaceful sleep without your teeth grinding against each other. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, Yoga, breathing exercises, and massage therapy also promote good quality sleep.