Bruxism is the technical term for grinding and clenching that abrades teeth and may cause facial pain. People who grind and clench, called bruxers, unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep. In addition to grinding teeth, bruxers also may bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. People usually aren’t diagnosed with bruxism until it is too late because so many people don’t realize they have the habit. Others mistakenly believe that their teeth must touch at all times. About one in four people suffer from 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. Over time teeth become sensitive and patients may experience jaw pain and headaches. Forceful biting when not eating may cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.
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 our dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants to relax jaw muscles. We many times can prescribe a night guard, which prevents grinding from occurring during sleep. To help alleviate muscle pain, physical therapy may be needed.