Teeth grinding affects one in three people at some time or another. It occurs during sleep. Some teeth grinders or ‘bruxers’ are also fingernail biters, and inclined to chew pencils and the inside of their cheeks.
Over time, teeth grinding can lead to a host of problems, including cracked teeth, sensitive teeth, jaw pain, headaches, and excessive wear on the teeth. Forceful biting when not chewing can also cause the jaw to move out of alignment.
Signs of bruxism
So if you’re asleep when you do it, how do you know if you’re a ‘bruxer’?
Some common signs are:
- Tips of the teeth appear flat. Teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off, exposing the inside of the tooth (dentin)
- Pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw, may manifest itself into a popping and clicking sound
- Tongue indentations
Anger, anxiety, pain, and frustration can trigger teeth grinding.
Treatment for bruxism
If your dentist notices signs of bruxism, prescribed therapy may include behaviour modification techniques to learn how to rest the tongue, teeth, and lips properly.
Your dentist may also provide a plastic mouth appliance, such as a night guard that is worn to absorb the force of biting. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth while the patient’s destructive behaviour is modified through therapy.
Biofeedback is sometimes used to measure muscle activity and teach patients how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too great. In severe cases like for people with cerebral palsy, a tranquillizer type drug may be prescribed to still muscle movements.