Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is an issue that more than 10 million people in the United States deal with, and the majority of these — in fact, more than 90 percent — are women during their childbearing years.
There are myriad problems that teeth grinding can cause, but a change in your looks is a little-known effect. If you grind your teeth a lot, the muscles in your face can increase from overwork, leading to a square face, bulging cheeks or a long, thin jaw with a prominent chin. So, if you have symptoms of bruxism, see a dental professional as soon as possible.
Bruxism is a condition in which the individual unconsciously clenches, grinds or gnashes his or her teeth. It can happen while you are asleep or awake.
Bruxism can lead to TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), problems with the jaw and the muscles in the face that control it. In addition, bruxism can cause headaches, damaged teeth and more.
Symptoms of Bruxism
If your bruxism is mild, you may not even have to treat it. But if you are experiencing the following symptoms, it is a good idea to be evaluated for treatment:
• Loud grinding or gnashing that your partner can hear.
• Sleep disruption.
• Tight jaw muscles or a “locked” jaw.
• Soreness of the jaw, neck or face.
• Loose teeth or teeth that are chipped or factured.
• Erosion of tooth enamel.
• Tooth pain and sensitivity.
• Damage to the inside of your cheek.
Causes of Bruxism
Why do women experience bruxism more than men do? While the condition has been linked to estrogen imbalances, the most likely cause is stress. In fact, studies have shown that up to 70 percent of bruxism is triggered by stress. Poor tooth alignment, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol and smoking are also causes.
With bruxism, you can treat the symptoms in order to relieve pain with massage and physical therapy or by visiting a chiropractor. In addition, a warm, wet washcloth on the jaw, exercises, and even muscle relaxers can alleviate symptoms.
To reduce the symptoms and stop teeth grinding, experts suggest:
• See a dentist for an evaluation and the possibility of being fitted with a mouth guard to prevent clenching.
• Manage or reduce your stress.
• Relax your face and jaw throughout the day.
• Drink more water.
• Get more sleep.
• Avoid chewing gum.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
If you have questions about grinding your teeth, please contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.