Bruxism is the medical term for grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. This habit can cause a lot of damage to your teeth, and you can do it without even realizing it. Here's what you need to know about bruxism.
Why do people clench or grind their teeth?
Many possible causes of bruxism have been identified. Here are some of the things that dentists think might be responsible for bruxism:
- Highly stressful work or home environment
- Mental disorders such as anxiety or depression
- Not getting enough sleep
- Smoking cigarettes
- Drinking a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages
- Drinking a lot of alcohol
- Taking drugs that affect your mood (prescription or recreational)
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
These factors have been proven to be the cause of bruxism in some people, but they don't explain every single case. Sometimes, dentists can't figure out why a particular person develops bruxism, so you might never know why you're clenching your teeth.
How do you know you have bruxism?
There are a few signs that you are suffering from bruxism. Your teeth may hurt, your jaw may feel stiff, and you may have a headache. Your partner may complain that they can hear you grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist may also notice that your teeth are worn down or damaged in a pattern that is consistent with bruxism.
How does bruxism damage your teeth?
Your teeth are very strong and are able to withstand years of biting and chewing, but they don't stand a chance against the forces you create when you clench. Bite forces of more than 990 pounds per square inch have been reported in people with bruxism. That doesn't sound like much until you compare it to normal chewing forces. You only need 28 pounds per square inch of force to chew through a raw carrot, and only 21 pounds per square inch for cooked meat.
That huge amount of force is enough to make your enamel crack, chip, or break. This damage exposes the delicate tissue beneath the enamel, the dentin, and leads to tooth sensitivity. Severe breaks can also expose the root of your tooth, necessitating a root canal or even extraction.
What other problems can bruxism cause?
Bruxism doesn't just damage your natural teeth, it also damages crowns or any other restorations that your dentist uses in your mouth. For example, cracked or chipped teeth are often fixed with crowns, caps that fit over top of your own teeth. Crowns, just like your natural teeth, are not strong enough to withstand the huge forces that bruxism puts on them. The same problems can occur with veneers, fillings, and other similar treatments.
Is bruxism a common problem?
This condition is fairly common, but it is underreported since some people clench or grind during their sleep and don't know that they're doing it. Many studies have been done to figure out how common this problem is, and they have found that between 8% and 31.4% of the general population suffers from it. Between 5% and 10% of the population has tooth damage caused by bruxism.
How is bruxism treated?
Dentists can treat bruxism with mouth guards or splints that protect your teeth from damage and help to break the habit of clenching and grinding. If stress is believed to be the cause of your bruxism, your dentist will recommend stress relieving activities such as yoga or massage.
If you think you have bruxism, you need to see your dentist right away. This is a serious condition that can damage both your teeth and any restorations that you have, like crowns or fillings. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like Schererville Family Dentistry, PC.