Have your roommate or bed partner ever complained of the grinding sounds you make when you are asleep? Or have you waken up feeling the soreness in your jaw? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, may be you are experiencing bruxism. Bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding while asleep, does not normally cause harm to your teeth, however if done regularly, it might wear your teeth down and damage dental appliances such as crowns, bridges, dentures and dental implants, which may lead to dental complications in the future.
Usually people who manifest bruxism are under a lot of stress or experiencing anxiety. It is the unconscious way of the mind to express the tension felt by an individual. Bruxism could also be brought about by unhealthy lifestyle which includes substance abuse such as drugs, alcohol and smoking, and excess use of caffeine. It can be also caused by orthodontic problems such as malocclusion.
The main goal in managing bruxism is controlling the habitual teeth grinding of the patient. The dentist may prescribe night guards to be used during sleep. These will protect the patients’ teeth from grinding forces during an episode. A night guard is made from a plastic material that is used to cover the teeth to avoid the pressure caused by grinding. This will also act as a cushion to alleviate the pressure from the jaw and ease the tension from the jaw muscles. The types of night guards depend from which plastic material it is made of. Most night guards are custom-fitted which requires dental impression sent to the dental laboratory.
Bruxism can be also managed by controlling the underlying causes. Stress and anxiety can be controlled through the use of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, reading a good book, a warm bath and listening to soft music before sleeping. In severe cases, anxiety is controlled through the use of medications. Change unhealthy lifestyle by avoiding drug and alcohol use and smoking. If cannot be stopped, limit your caffeine intake. Treat malocclusion if it is the underlying cause of bruxism.
If you suspect you have bruxism, inform your dentist so that proper management can be started early and prevent the complications from happening if left uncontrolled.