Teeth Grinding & Clenching
Sometimes people exposed to chronic stress or high-pressure situations can develop a damaging habit known as bruxism: unconsciously biting down with too much force at non-mealtimes. It can happen at night or during the day, is generally found in about one third of the population and is more prevalent amongst women. Since “bruxers” are often individuals with personality types who react to stress with anger, pain, frustration, aggression or competition, the inappropriate tendency to constantly clench or grind the teeth may be related to poor stress management. Sometimes it's a conscious attempt to force the upper and lower teeth to touch at all times. People with bruxism may have other 'biting' habits as well such as biting fingernails, pencils, lips, or the insides of their cheeks. In any case, it’s a harmful habit that wears down biting surfaces, causes bite imbalances and can lead to serious dental problems.
Since bruxers are often unaware of their habit, we carefully evaluate all our patients for the problem by checking for fractured or chipped teeth, excessively worn or flat teeth, worn enamel, unexplained tooth or gum sensitivity, jaw pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, popping and clicking jaws, tense muscles, headaches, partially exposed and sensitive tooth interior (dentin) and/or tongue indentations. Severe bruxism can even lead to a dislocated jaw! If you're diagnosed a bruxer, we can do several things to help break the habit, treat the pain and eliminate further damage to your teeth and oral structures. This may involve fitting you with an orthotic appliance or nightguard to stop the trigger mechanism that initiates the unconscious clenching and grinding. Sometimes wearing the guard will eliminate the problem. If not, we can do further examination to determine the cause, while in the meantime advising continuous wearing of the guard to spare the teeth from further damage.