Teeth grinding is a problem that affects nearly one in ten individuals, yet many patients don’t realize they’re doing it. That’s a problem given just how harmful it can be to your overall health. Are you a grinder, or a bruxer in technical terms? Here’s how to find out.
The signs and symptoms of bruxism are not pleasant, nor are they always obvious. In addition to abnormal tooth wear, bruxers experience tenderness and pain in their jaw muscles, headaches (particularly after waking up), and a condition called “masticatory muscle hypertrophy,” which manifests as an increase in the size of jaw muscles due to over-training. Bruxism is also a leading cause of TMJ syndrome, a condition in which the temporomandibular joints have been damaged, causing pain. Other signs include:
Not all of these warning signs are always present - there are bruxers who are asymptomatic despite their intense grinding activity during sleep. They’ve adapted their muscles and often do not develop pain. In addition, the degree of wear-and-tear to teeth can’t always be related to the intensity or frequency of tooth grinding. Other factors include enamel quality, saliva, acid intake, and the presence of systemic diseases, such as eating disorders and gastro-esophageal reflux.
That said, excessive wear-and-tear of the teeth still stands out as the most obvious sign that a person is grinding their teeth. If you suspect that you’re a grinder, discuss your symptoms with Dr. Iglio at your next appointment. She can can examine your temporomandibular joints and jaw muscles for signs of bruxism.
And finally - how do you treat bruxism? Today, the most common treatment for sleep bruxism is the use of an occlusal splint, more commonly known as a mouth (or night) guard. Night guards are worn during sleep to protect the teeth surface and are typically made of clear acrylic. Although they are not glamorous, wearing a night guard can save you from unnecessary pain and expenses!
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