High Risk for Teeth Grinding

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws. Bruxism often occurs during deep sleep or while under stress.  Clenching and/or grinding the teeth can be a subconscious act, meaning you are unaware that you are doing it.  Many people clench or grind their teeth when they are concentrating, driving or working out in addition to while they are sleeping.

What are the Causes of Bruxism?

Bruxism can have several different causes.  Some people have irregularities in the way the teeth come together (occlusion) that cause increased muscle activity.  Other people clench or grind their teeth when they are under stress.  Often, bruxism is a sign of a sleep-disordered breathing problem, like sleep apnea.  It can also be a side effect of certain medications, including some antidepressants and ADHD medications.

What Does it Mean that I am High Risk?

There are multiple factors that can show your dentist that you are at high risk for clenching or grinding your teeth.

  • Wear facets – damage to the biting surfaces of teeth that looks like flattened areas
  • Tightness or soreness in the muscles of the jaws
  • Excessive muscle force – evidenced by large facial muscles
  • Recession – loss of gum attachment, teeth appear longer
  • Abfractions – notching of enamel at the gumline
  • Potholes on the biting surfaces of back teeth – the enamel is completely worn away, and the underlying tooth structure becomes deep and concave, just like a pothole in the road
  • Linea alba – white callous line on inner cheeks
  • Scalloped tongue – the outer edges of the tongue become shaped like the inner edges of the teeth

 What Can I Do About it?

You can prevent some of the damage to your teeth and gums by having a dental nightguard custom made for your mouth.  When you sleep in a protective nightguard, you decrease the stressful forces applied to the teeth as you sleep and protect them from further breakdown.  If you find yourself clenching during the daytime, talk with Dr. Chowning about techniques to help break that habit.

 What if I Don’t Do Anything?

Bruxism can lead to multiple complications of your oral health.  Inside the mouth, bruxism can cause cracked teeth, loss of tooth structure, shortened teeth, gum recession, abfraction or notching of the teeth at the gumline.  These complications can result in many different types of damage to the teeth and an increased cost of dental care over your lifetime.  Outside the oral cavity, bruxism can cause problems in the chewing muscles or in the jaw joint itself.  Muscle tension can lead to facial pain or headaches.  Problems in the joint can lead to arthritis and slipped disks within the jaw joint.  This all can lead to pain, limited function, and decreased overall quality of life.

How Do I Find out if I am Grinding my Teeth?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will assess all of your risk factors and let you know if you are high risk for clenching and grinding your teeth.  He can also guide you in choosing a treatment option to prevent long-term damage.

 

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