Is work or school stressing you out? You may be taking it out on your teeth through a condition called bruxism. Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the teeth and is typically accompanied by the clenching of the jaw. Researchers classify bruxism as a habitual behavior as well as a sleep disorder. Untreated bruxism can lead to other health problems, damage to the teeth and gums, and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Teeth grinding can be caused not just by stress and anxiety but by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or teeth that are missing or crooked. Approximately 5% develop symptoms. The symptoms of teeth grinding include:
- dull headaches
- jaw soreness
- fractured teeth
- stress and tension
- teeth that are painful or loose
- eating disorders
Bruxism can result in abnormal wear patterns on the top surfaces of teeth, unusually sensitive teeth, notching of the teeth at the gum lines, as well as severe damage to the teeth, including fractures. Bruxism also is a significant cause of tooth loss, gum recession, and loosening of the teeth.
How is bruxism treated? There is not always a definitive cure for bruxism, but the signs and symptoms can be reduced or eliminated through dental treatment. Treatments can include mouth guards, bite adjustments, biofeedback devices, and repair of damaged teeth.
Teeth grinding is also common in children. However, because their teeth and jaws change and grow so quickly it is not usually a damaging habit that requires treatment and most outgrow it by adolescence. Although in adults teeth grinding is often the result of stress, the same is not always true with children. Other possible causes of teeth grinding in children include:
- irritation in the mouth
- misaligned teeth
If you’re concerned about teeth grinding, ask your dentist about the potential causes and, if necessary, the possible solutions.