What is bruxism?

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the term for grinding the teeth while not chewing food. It commonly occurs at night as a sleep-related condition, but people can also grind or clench their teeth during the day. Often, the person with bruxism is not aware that they are grinding their teeth. If bruxism is left untreated, it can have adverse effects on the teeth and jaw. To be evaluated for the condition and to receive treatment, visit Dr. Lynn Alan Palmer in Houston, TX.

Effects

Prolonged teeth grinding can wear down the teeth, causing them to become short, blunt, or fractured. It also puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around the jaw, causing jaw pain or stiffness. Additional effects include:

  • Sore gums
  • Sensitive, loose, or broken teeth
  • Clicking or popping of jaw joints
  • A dull headache
  • Earache
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder

Causes

The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but several factors appear to be linked to the condition. Stress is often one cause for teeth grinding, as well as anger or anxiety. It can also be related to an abnormal bite. If the teeth do not meet properly when the jaw closes, called an occlusal discrepancy, the teeth may grind together. Some people may experience facial muscle spasms during sleep. Bruxism can be an effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics. It is most common in childhood when children first start teething and again when the permanent teeth begin to erupt. It will usually stop once the adult teeth have fully erupted.

Diagnosis

Dr. Palmer, your general and family dentist in Houston, TX, can take your patient history and perform an exam to determine whether you have bruxism. He will look for signs such as jaw discomfort on waking, tooth wear, and enlarged jaw muscles.

Treatment

There is no cure for bruxism, but the symptoms can be treated depending on the cause. Physical therapy or exercises can be practiced to help with daytime clenching or grinding. If stress is determined to be the primary cause of the grinding, strategies can be used to relieve it. A mouth guard is often prescribed to keep the teeth protected.

Prevention

Bruxism may be prevented by managing stress and anxiety, maintaining a soothing bedtime routine, sleeping on your side or stomach, and getting plenty of exercise in.

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