My Blog

Posts for tag: teeth grinding

TreatingTeethGrindingNowCouldHelpPreventExcessiveToothWearLater

Your teeth naturally wear as you age, but you may be making it worse if you grind your teeth.

Teeth grinding is a behavior that causes the teeth to gnash, grind or clench against each other generating forces greater than those produced from normal biting. These forces often result in tooth wear that cause not only functional problems but result in a more aged appearance. Grinding occurs while a person is awake, but most often episodes occur while asleep at night.

Teeth grinding is quite common in children, but not usually of great concern since most grow out of it. There's even a school of thought that teeth grinding might even help readjust an uneven bite.

Among adults, though, other factors seem to contribute to teeth grinding. Many researchers believe nighttime grinding occurs as a person passes through different sleep phases including deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It may also have a connection with chronic snoring.

Certain medications seem to contribute to teeth grinding, particularly psychoactive drugs like amphetamines. Nicotine falls in this category, which could be why tobacco users report twice the incidence of the habit compared to non-users. Teeth grinding is also connected to another fact of modern life: stress. People who grind their teeth tend to have higher levels of anxiety, hostility or depression.

Because there are multiple triggers, there are many treatment approaches. Whatever course we take, our aim is to eliminate or minimize those factors that contribute to your habit. For example, we can create a custom mouth guard for night wear to prevent the teeth from making solid contact and thus reduce the biting pressure.

Perhaps the most important thing is to control or reduce stress. This is particularly helpful at night to prepare you for restful sleep by changing some of your behaviors. We also encourage investigating other stress therapies like biofeedback, meditation or group therapy.

Whatever the means, bringing teeth grinding under control not only reduces problems now, but could also help prevent abnormal teeth wearing and future health issues down the road.

If you would like more information on causes and treatments for teeth grinding, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress & Tooth Habits.”

By Stephen P. Lukin, D.D.S.
November 27, 2011
Category: Oral Health

Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.

My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.

Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.

What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.

What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about stress and tooth grinding. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress & Tooth Habits.”