What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a somewhat technical term that we use to describe a fairly common problem – chronic clenching and grinding of your teeth.

You’ve probably clenched your teeth before out of frustration or ground your teeth together during a stressful time, but if it only happens periodically, it’s not a big deal. It’s when it happens frequently that it can become a serious problem that affects your oral health.

Why Does Clenching and Grinding Occur?

You might clench and grind your teeth for a few reasons. As noted, stress can definitely be a contributing factor, especially if the stressful situation continues for a long period of time.

Another contributor to bruxism can be a misalignment of your bite. When your teeth don’t fit together properly, you will subconsciously try to keep your teeth in a more “natural” position.

Why Is Bruxism a Problem?

Bruxism is a problem because it’s really hard on your teeth. Our teeth are intended to chew a range of foods, and we have powerful jaw muscles. This is great for when you want to chew up a nice steak, but it’s not so great when your teeth are absorbing the full force.

Bruxism can lead to:

  • Cracks and fractures
  • Enamel loss, which can increase your risk of cavities
  • Loose teeth
  • Jaw pain
  • Facial fatigue
  • Migraine headaches and ear pain
  • Radiating pain in the neck and shoulder
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)

How Do I Know if I Have Bruxism?

Many people grind their teeth in their sleep and don’t even realize that they have a problem. If you wake up with a sore jaw or if your teeth are showing signs of wear, ask your partner if they can hear you grinding your teeth while you sleep.

The dentists at our Fayetteville dental office can also see if you have been clenching and grinding your teeth by looking for patterns of wear that are distinctive to bruxism. In addition to erosion and wear on your enamel, injury to your tongue or the inside of your cheek can also be an indication of bruxism.

How Do We Treat Bruxism?

The first thing we’ll want to do is address the underlying problem that is causing the bruxism. For instance, if chronic stress is driving your clenching and grinding, we can discuss stress reduction and relaxation techniques. If you’re going through a particularly stressful situation, it might be a good idea to visit a mental health professional. Stress is hard on your body in a lot of ways, and a counselor or therapist can help you develop better coping skills.

If there’s a physical component, like a misaligned bite, we can discuss ways to fix it. Orthodontics are often effective for treating overbites, underbites, and crossbites. If your teeth are excessively worn, we can use restorative techniques like crowns to build your teeth back up again and realign your bite.

In the meantime, we can also recommend a customized appliance that you can wear while you sleep to stop the bruxism and avoid further damage. This device fits neatly between your teeth and prevents the back teeth from coming together.

Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kifer or Dr. Bowen!