Most of our muscles need more working out. Exercise seems difficult to fit in to our busy schedules and our bodies pay the price. But, for some of us, there are a few muscles in the head and neck that are doing way too much work! Much of our patient population tends to clench and grind the teeth. This bad oral habit is called bruxism.
Teeth clenching or grinding may be caused by stress and anxiety, a misaligned bite, or sleep disorders. It most commonly happens during sleep but some people clench their jaws during the day as well. Symptoms of bruxism include: sore facial muscles or headaches, clicking and popping of the jaw joint or TMJ, teeth that hurt or feel loose, and tooth breakage.
If you think you might be clenching or grinding your teeth at night using a bite splint may help to protect your teeth, joints, and muscles against overuse. Here is an example of a lab-fabricated bite splint that we often prescribe and have made for patients. Stress-minimizing activities such exercise and meditation can help as well. In some cases, we may prescribe a muscle relaxant for use before bedtime.
Many children grind their teeth and you may even hear them making noise with their teeth while sleeping. Because children’s mouths change so rapidly there are almost no damaging effects. Most children will outgrow the habit by the time all their permanent teeth are in.
Bruxism is very common among our patient population. Identifying the problem before it causes damage to your teeth and joints is very important. If you’re concerned about the effects of this condition, have your dentist evaluate your mouth and suggest prevention and treatment options.