The Grinding Phenomenon

You can’t exactly control yourself when you’re asleep. Though this doesn’t usually pose a problem, there are some things you might unconsciously do that could cause harm to your teeth and other oral structures. Bruxism, or the habit of grinding your teeth, typically affects patients in their sleep, although it can often manifest during the day, as well. In some cases, the condition may be mild enough to not need treatment, while in others, bruxism can lead to frequent headaches, jaw problems, and damage to a patient’s teeth. If the majority of your habit occurs at night, then you may be unaware of its presence until you exhibit resulting symptoms.

What Causes You to Clench Your Teeth?

Depending on your specific case, your bruxism can be caused any of a number of different factors. Experts agree that excessive stress is one of the most common and significant factors, and treating the habit often involves a combination of stress-relief techniques. Stress is your body’s response to a perceived threat. In the modern world, this response can be triggered by the demands your career, anxiety about your home life, or a myriad of other life factors. Aside from heightened levels of stress, several dental conditions can also contribute to bruxism, including;

  • Crooked teeth
  • An injured or uneven jawbone
  • TMJ disorder (a severe jaw dysfunction)
  • Missing teeth (which can throw your bite off-balance)

Children and Bruxism

Like most dental issues, habitual teeth-grinding can affect children as well as adults. Recent studies show that approximately 15-33% of children grind their teeth, usually when baby teeth first emerge, or when their permanent replaces begin to erupt. The habit often disappears once each set of teeth has completely grown in, but if it continues, it may lead to discomfort and problems with teeth and jaw development. Bringing your child to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least once every six months will allow Dr. Fondriest to check for signs of bruxism and prescribe treatment to stop it. If necessary, he may have to repair dental damage, such as cracked or fractured teeth, to avoid further complications.

The Long-Term Effects

Your teeth, which are protected by the toughest material your body produces (tooth enamel), are able to withstand an incredible amount of repeated pressure from biting and chewing. On average, your jaw can produce up to 200 pounds of pressure on the molars at the back of your mouth. When you grind them together, however, the excess friction and pressure can cause fissures and cracks in your enamel, or wear down your teeth and change the symmetry of your bite. Damaged and worn down teeth are more susceptible to infections and tooth loss, and untreated bruxism can lead to trouble with your jaw’s joints and the muscles that surround them. TMJ disorder, the blanket name for jaw-joint dysfunctions, can severe recurring migraines, trouble moving your jaw, earaches, and a host of other aches and pains.

Do You Have an Issue?

Since bruxism usually occurs at night, while you’re asleep, the best way to determine if you suffer from the habit is let Dr. Fondriest inspect your teeth during a checkup every six months. If you think you might be a candidate, ask yourself the following questions;

  • Do I wake up with sore jaw and facial muscles most mornings?
  • Are my teeth overly-sensitive?
  • Do I grind my teeth during the day?
  • Do I suffer from chronic headaches, usually in the mornings?
  • Are the insides of my cheeks often chewed up or damaged?

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

To find out if you grind your teeth and need help to stop, visit Dr. Fondriest as soon as possible. Aside from providing expert family, general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.

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