Bruxism (teeth grinding) – What Exactly is Bruxism?

Do you find yourself clenching your teeth during the day? Does your partner hear you grinding them at night? Perhaps you wake up with headaches and jaw pain. All of these are a sign of the habit of bruxism (teeth grinding). While most people experience this during some point in their lives with no ill effects, others can see major results from an extended period with this particular habit. Because the teeth are rubbing against one another repeatedly, the process can wear the enamel down, even to the point where all that is left is the dentine and pulp inside the tooth on the lateral surfaces of the teeth. When this occurs, the exposed teeth are no longer receiving the protection of the enamel.

People who have spent a significant period of time in bruxism (teeth grinding) can also have pain in the jaw or even develop temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ. This disorder is related to the two triangular points that are located on each side in the back of the mouth where the upper row of teeth and the lower row come together. Bruxism, especially nighttime teeth grinding, moves the teeth in a side to side motion, with top and bottom alternating directions. This puts a strain on the temporomandibular joint and can ultimately wear down the areas where the two rows of teeth meet.

Bruxism (teeth grinding) is considered to be an oral parafunctional activity or habit. This means that the area is being used in an activity that is not the primary function or of the mouth or jaw. Some patients who have acquired this habit report symptoms that include earaches, anxiety, stress, tension, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, headache, or a sore jaw. Several methods are used to diagnose the habit. Tooth wear alone does not guarantee bruxism because tooth wear can be caused by other things as well. A trained dentist like Dr. Hazim can help you determine if you are grinding you teeth and what measures should be taken.

The most common treatment is to get a molded customized night guard to wear when sleeping. This keeps the surfaces of the teeth from rubbing together during bruxism (teeth grinding) and helps to hold the mouth in a more rigid comfortable position so grinding happens with less intensity frequently. The night guard should be created from an impression of your teeth so that it will fit perfectly when put in at night. This allows the jaw muscles to rest and inflammation to reduce.

Dr. Hazim is a member of the American Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. A graduate of Loyola University, Dr. Hazim has undergone continuing education at the Pankey Institute and has received accreditation from the Western Regional Examining Board.

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