Long-time teeth-grinders may not even be familiar with the concept as a medically defined condition. Called ‘bruxism,’ it’s what you and between 22 and 31% of the population contend with on a daily (or nightly) basis, according to some studies. If left untreated, bruxism can cause permanent damage to your teeth or dental work, though on a day-to-day basis most who suffer from bruxism have to contend with an overabundance of headaches and sore jaw-muscles.
Specifically, bruxism is defined as an excessive amount of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, whether consciously–which is to say, during the day–or during the night while you’re asleep. While you may or may not recognize that you’re doing it, bruxism can manifest in a number of painful and seemingly unrelated ways.
The Signs of Bruxism
For instance, if you’re a ‘bruxer,’ you may suffer from neck-pains or jaw tension as the muscular stress distributes across the rest of your body. You can develop damage to your jaw joints, leading to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD). You may begin to develop hypersensitivity as the enamel on your teeth wears down, leaving the tender tissue beneath exposed. At its worst, bruxism can lead to cracked or damaged teeth, or even tori mandibularis, which are bone-like growths that stem from constant extreme pressure. While not all of these symptoms are a sign of bruxism, they can indicate an ongoing issue that should certainly be addressed.
Bruxism can lead to serious tooth damage because it is so much more strenuous than normal chewing. While we only need about 30 psi to chew foods, bruxing can generate as much as 500 psi on your teeth!
But what can we do about bruxism? For most of us who have suffered from the condition, it seems like an unavoidable part of life. However, it doesn’t have to be!
Regardless of the source of each individual’s bruxism, there are a number of ways to address the issue: first, it is important to visit your dental professional to assess and diagnose the possibility that you may be suffering from bruxism. Once your jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding has been investigated in more depth, we can identify the exact cause and recommend the proper treatment. Often, we will start with a mouth-guard that can both protect your teeth and address the fundamental causes of bruxism, helping your jaw muscles to relax so you won’t experience jaw pain, tooth damage, or other problems. We can also begin to talk about repairing the damage done by your bruxism.