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Are You Your Teeth’s Worst Enemy? How Grinding Can Damage Your Smile

Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw, or even worse, a cracked tooth? You may suffer from bruxism, a condition that causes you to subconsciously grind, gnash or clench your teeth. This can happen during the day but it is much more common for it to occur when people are sleeping and unaware. Most adults find out that they suffer from bruxism because their partner tells them. In children, their parents are normally the first to discuss the condition with their child’s dentist.

Bruxism Symptoms
If you’re unsure if you or someone that you know is displaying the symptoms of bruxism, here is a quick list of symptoms to look out for. Remember that only a dentist can diagnose someone with bruxism. If there is any concern, be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

• Grinding or clenching of teeth
• Upon examination, teeth appear flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
• Tooth sensitivity
• Soreness or pain in the jaw or face
• Worn tooth enamel
• Consistent headaches or pain coming from the ear
• Inside of cheeks are chewed and sore
You should see your dentist sooner than later if one or more of your teeth crack or chip, if you have severe pain in your jaw, face or ear or if your jaw locks and won’t open or close completely.

Mild cases of bruxism may not require treatment. Most children actually outgrow bruxism and if the cause of the disorder in an adult is stress, they can treat this with simple stress management. This can only be determined by your dentist though.
Special mouthguards can also be prescribed for people who suffer from bruxism. In this case, an occlusal splint is most commonly used. It will keep the teeth separated, which will protect them from any further damage. An occlusal splint may not stop the grinding action but your teeth won’t wear down anymore either. An occlusal splint is made from either hard acrylic or a softer material. It is custom made from an impression of your mouth and will “snap” in place.
In extreme cases, braces or oral surgery may be recommended to treat bruxism, if the cause is misaligned teeth or a poor bite. This is rare though. There are also medications that can be used to help treat the condition, like muscle relaxants but this is not often the first case of action.

Does it have to be treated?
If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a number of problems. Some symptoms are also side effects, like headaches and ear pain. More permanent side effects include loss of tooth structure, gum recession, loose teeth, shortening of teeth, tooth sensitivity, cracked and broken teeth or damage to the bone structure of the jaw joint. The facial structure of a person can even change over time if bruxism is left untreated.
If someone suffers from bruxism long enough and begins to experience certain side effects, they may need to have teeth extracted. Other serious dental work, like crowns, bridges and implants may be needed as well. Bruxism isn’t just uncomfortable. It can cost you time and money, as well.
If you think that you’re suffering from bruxism, Quay Dental is happy to provide their patients with custom made occlusal splints, if one is required. After diagnosis, an impression will be needed. Your custom occlusal splint will be ready for you at your next visit. After an adjustment or two, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a safer night’s sleep.