Dental Patient Education


Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)


If you wake up with dull headaches or vise-like pain, you may be one of many people who grind their teeth at night. Many people are unaware they even have the disorder (called bruxism) because it often occurs at night during sleep. Your dentist can usually detect the telltale signs of wear on your teeth.

Problems Caused by Bruxism

Bruxism can either directly or indirectly cause many problems. Grinding can cause teeth to become painful or loose. Patients can literally grind away parts of their teeth, leaving them with worn surfaces or fractured enamel.

Causes of Bruxism

More research is needed to determine the exact cause of bruxism, but it is thought that both emotional and physical factors are involved. Some of the contributing factors may be stress or sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth.

Treatment of Bruxism

There are a number of ways to treat bruxism. Your dentist will determine which single treatment or combination of treatments is right for you. When stress is the major cause of bruxism, people need to find ways to relax. People who have difficulty handling stress may need to seek counseling or the dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants to relax jaw muscles. To help alleviate muscle pain, physical therapy may be needed.

The following tips can be helpful to prevent grinding:
  • To help break the habit, place reminders around the house, or try repeating phrases that help you relax.
  • To help relax clenching muscles, apply a warm wash cloth to the side of your face.
  • To relieve stress, cut down on caffeine, take warm baths and ease up on yourself.

Because it is thought that an abnormal bite may predispose a person to grinding, treatment may involve removing the "high spots" of a tooth. Another treatment involves wearing a plastic mouth guard at night to prevent tooth grinding. A bite plate is a removable plastic device which prevents teeth from coming together. In some cases , such as with an overbite, it may eventually improve the bite. A method used to treat the damage caused by more serious cases of grinding involves reshaping or reconstruction of the biting surfaces with crowns or inlays.

Grinding is a common occurrence among many people at some time or another. If you develop facial pain, fatigue or other problems, treatment may be needed. Talk with your dentist if you suspect that you are grinding your teeth. Your dentist can help relieve you from the daily grind of bruxism.

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