Have you ever woken up in the morning with a dull headache or a sore jaw?
Do you sometimes find yourself clenching your teeth? Has your family members commented that you make crackling sounds at night during sleep? If your answer is “Yes” to any of the above, you could be unconsciously grinding or clenching your teeth, a habit commonly known as bruxism. Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth because it happens during sleep. As bruxism occurs in the early part of the sleep, the clenching and grinding can be audible and can annoy sleep partners.
Effects of Bruxism
1. Headache, ear – ache, toothache
2. Sore facial muscles and tender jaw joints
3. Dental fillings can be damaged as can tooth be worn or fractured in extreme cases
4. Tooth sensitivity as the outer layer of enamel is worn away and exposed the underlying dentine
5. Damage to the temporamandibular joint (TMJ – the joint on each side of the mouth that connects the lower jaw to the skull
Causes of Bruxism are varied and sometimes more than one factors may be involved
1. Stressful lifestyle – work or family or relationship related
2. Sleep problems
3. Abnormal bite
4. Crooked or missing teeth
5. Psychological disturbances
It is important to have regular dental checkups to allow the dentist to detect signs of bruxism early. The dentist will be able to diagnose and treat irregular wear on teeth, and determine the source of facial pain. Depending on the root cause of the bruxism, certain therapy approach will be advised:
1. Nightguard – custom made by the dentist from soft or hard material to fit the biting surface of the teeth. It prevents contact of the teeth during sleep at night and hence relieves the pressure and deleterious effects of grinding and clenching.
2. Stress management – To recognize the stress contribution and source of the stress. Appropriate counseling and hypnotherapy are alternatives for people who have problems handling stress. Generally, relaxing activities are helpful – listening to music, reading, taking mind off work, holiday, exercise.
3. Bite Correction – This involves the dentist correcting and leveling the bite to ensure even distribution of force exerted on the teeth. In more serious cases, a full mouth rehabilitation option may be offered.