What is Bruxism?
When teeth clenching, medically known as bruxism, starts occurring regularly, it is definitely time to seek help and visit a dentist. That's because bruxism has the power to crack and damage your teeth, as well as bring upon many different oral health issues like jaw impairment. While these symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, there are thankfully a bunch of treatment options available.
The way our bodies work is that our lower and upper teeth are supposed to come together smoothly. After all, the teeth should only touch each other when you are chewing food. Once you start noticing that this is not the case, you are experiencing bruxism. In fact, this condition happens quite often, occurring in 20 percent of the population during the day and 8 percent during sleep at night. It does not sound like the condition can do a lot of damage, but it sure can. Bruxism effects everything from the gums to the tooth enamel. As easy as it may sound to just ignore teeth clenching, this condition really can't be left untreated.
At one time, teeth grinding was thought to be caused by some kind of bad bite. However, over the years, it was seen that this simply was not the case. The latest studies show that our lifestyle choices are the main culprit. If we are experiencing a lot of stress or anxiety this could cause us to start grinding our teeth. The same goes for if we begin developing rough sleeping patterns.
How Serious is Bruxism?
Now that you know a bit of what bruxism is, it is time go into detail over just how serious this condition is. While a lot of adults can suffer from bruxism, it is usually developed at a young age while the teeth are still coming into their adulthood. In fact, it has been estimated that roughly 15 percent of children grind their teeth. However, as those kids grow older they tend to grow out of this condition. In fact, only 3 percent of those children still have bruxism as adults.
While stress alone can cause the average person's teeth to wear down at about .3 millimeters every 10 years, this number is even higher for those that actually have been diagnosed with bruxism. They lose about two millimeters of enamel by their twenties. Then, there is those who experience bruxism at night, where teeth clenching occurs for about 40 minutes of every hour's sleep. In other words, this results in 250 pounds of pressure for roughly every square inch. That force alone has the strength to crack a walnut, so clearly bruxism is not a condition to take lightly.
There is so much damage that bruxism can cause to teeth and mouth area in general. For starters, teeth clenching will cause the front teeth to become completely flat and worn down. This will make them all about the same length. Then, this condition can also cause your fillings to come undone and cracks to start forming, which will leave you with a lot of nerve damage. Obviously, this is going to be really painful, interrupting your daily life. Besides this, when your teeth are ground down all the way to the dentin, you will begin having extreme sensitivity to the cold and heat, meaning you won't be able to eat and drink all of your favorite foods and beverages without feeling some type of discomfort. Also, you will start having gum loss, which leaves your roots exposed. This is typically a result of all the pressure teeth clenching has on your gum line. Of course, bruxism can make your teeth fall out because the condition creates a rocking motion. The least of your worries, but still a consequence of teeth grinding, is all the headaches and aching that will later occur. This is an effect because bruxism completely overuses your jaw muscles.
As far as the symptoms go, there are a bunch of different signs that can tip you off to bruxism. To begin with, those with this condition often clench their teeth so loud that even their sleep partner wakes up. Besides this, the teeth tend to appear chipped, fractured, worn down or even flattened. The deeper layers of the teeth are generally visible, causing the teeth to become extra sensitive. Bruxism suffers may experience tightness or pain the jaw, as well as an earache because of all the jaw muscle contractions going on. Of course, each person with bruxism is a different case, so what symptom may pop up for one person, may be totally different for someone else.
Now that you know exactly what bruxism can do to you, it is important to stress that there are treatment methods out there. Remember, teeth clinching can be managed, so this is plenty of hope here. First, you are going to want to confirm with an expert that you do actually suffer from bruxism. A dentist will evaluate the situation and see just how much damage has already occurred to your teeth, jaw and gums. From there, he or she will decide what your best option is for treatment.
One of the most common treatment options involves creating a custom-fitted bite plate for the person suffering from bruxism. This can either be worn at night or during the day and how it works is that it takes the brunt of your clenching, so that you don't actually wear down on your teeth. So in other words, when you start grinding your teeth, the plate absorbs that force completely. However, since that is a soft guard piece, many opt for a custom-fitted oral contraption instead that focuses mainly on airway obstruction. This piece serves the same kind of effect as the bite plate. Remember since bruxism can be the result anxiety, other people choose to combat this issue with good ole stress reduction methods like yoga, psychotherapy, and meditation. Before a patient decides which treatment method they want to go with, it is best to discuss all the options with a dentist first. This way the greatest treatment option that will be the most effective is selected.