As I recently examined a patient’s teeth, I noticed some erosion most likely caused by bruxism, a condition commonly known as the grinding of the teeth or the clenching of the jaw.
I asked this particular patient if she experienced headaches or any jaw or neck pain. She looked at me surprised. “How did you know?” she asked, incredulous that I could infer so much about her physical health simply from the condition of her teeth.
This patient’s teeth grinding issue is unfortunately quite common. Did you know that somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of Americans grind, gnash, or clench their teeth? You can imagine the potential damage that this activity could cause, not only to your teeth, but also to the neck and jaw. Many people do not even realize they are grinding, gnashing, or clenching because bruxism is a largely nocturnal occurrence for many patients.
Though bruxism does occur during daylight hours, many people only find out they grind their teeth when a partner--usually disgruntled from having their sleep disturbed--informs them, or when a doctor or dentist is able to diagnose it accurately due to the patient’s teeth and symptoms.
Have you ever experienced and of the following symptoms of bruxism?
• Headaches - People who grind their teeth and/or clench their jaws often wake up with headaches. It’s no wonder--after a long night of over exerting the muscles in your face and neck, your head is bound to feel that ache! Bruxism is a possible trigger for migraines, as well.
• Achy jaw - Do you ever find your jaw or even your whole face hurting? In additional to a nocturnal activity, bruxism can also occur during the day, particularly for people who find themselves in stressful situations. Next time you find yourself in a high-stress scenario at work or at home, try to be mindful of your body’s natural reaction. Are you clenching your jaw or holding your head or neck in an awkward, tense position? If you find yourself taking on these “stress postures,” try to remind yourself via a small note or a mental trigger to relax.
• Sensitive teeth - If you have no known periodontal issues, yet you find your teeth are sensitive, it may be that you’re grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Overly sensitive tooth sensations often occur in conjunction with other symptoms.
• Inexplicably broken dental work - Erosion happens slowly and over time, and some upkeep on certain pieces can be expected. That said, have you ever woken up to discover a missing filling or realized during a meal that your crown was cracked? If your dental work is broken and you’re not due for any “routine maintenance,” ask your dentist if it is possible that bruxism could be a factor in the cracked piece.
No one should have to put up with the physical pain that bruxism can cause. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, message us to schedule a consultation and find out what your best treatment options are. It’s time to finally get a good night’s rest!