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Bruxism: Signs and Symptoms

Do you sometimes find yourself waking up with a headache, even after a good night’s sleep? Or maybe you jaw hurts in the morning and you have no idea why? If so, you may be suffering from bruxism which is the grinding and clenching of teeth. Most of the times it occurs at night during sleep, therefore most people suffering from it are totally unaware of their habit until they start to feel some very unpleasant symptoms.

Is bruxism dangerous?

It is very important to know that during grinding the forces applied on your teeth are about 90 times higher than during normal chewing, therefore bruxism can cause teeth to become painful or loose, and sometimes parts of the teeth are literally chip or crumble away. Eventually, bruxism can destroy the bone and gum tissues surrounding the tooth. It can also lead to problems involving the jaw joint, most commonly the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

How do I know if I have bruxism?

Because for most people bruxism is an unconscious habit, they may not even realize they’re doing it until e.g. a relative points out to them that they make a grinding sound while sleeping. For others, a routine dental check-up is when a dentist discovers their teeth are worn or their tooth enamel is fractured.

Other potential signs of bruxism include aching of the face, head and neck.

Your dentist can make an accurate diagnosis and determine if the source of facial pain is caused by bruxism.

How is bruxism treated?

Out of many different causes of bruxism, stress is the most common one. The appropriate treatment for you will depend on what is causing the problem. By asking careful questions and thoroughly examining your teeth, your dentist can help you determine the potential reason of your bruxism.

Based on the amount of tooth damage and its likely cause, your dentist may suggest:

  • Wearing an appliance while sleeping. Custom-made by your dentist to fit your teeth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and protects them from grinding against the lower teeth. While an appliance is a good way to manage bruxism, it is not a cure.
  • Finding ways to relax. Because everyday stress seems to be a major cause of bruxism, anything that reduces stress can help-listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or a bath. It may help to seek counselling to learn effective ways for handling stressful situations. Also, applying a warm, wet washcloth to the side of your face can help relax muscles sore from clenching.
  • Reducing the “high spots” of one or more teeth to even your bite. An abnormal bite, one in which teeth do not fit well together, may also be corrected with new fillings, crowns or orthodontics.

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