This may feel like a pretty normal thing to do when you’re annoyed or stressed. However, if you grind your teeth on a regular basis, whether awake or asleep, it can become a serious problem. This kind of chronic clenching and teeth-grinding is known as “bruxism”.
Why Does Bruxism Happen?
Sleeping bruxism, also called nocturnal bruxism, is sometimes the side-effect of sleep apnea or snoring, while awake bruxism (diurnal bruxism) can be a side-effect of stress, improper chewing muscle mass or anxiety. However, not everyone with bruxism is dealing with a sleep disorder or stress, and everyone with a sleep disorder or a lot of stress in their lives will have bruxism. Another major contributor to bruxism is improperly aligned teeth.
Treatment for bruxism is very tricky because there isn’t a single clear cause, so the focus tends to be on reducing symptoms and minimizing the damage.
You might not be consciously be aware of a teeth-grinding habit, but if you experience at least some of the following symptoms, it could be signs of bruxism:
- Sore jaw (with sleep bruxism, your jaw will be most sore in the morning, whereas with awake bruxism, it’ll be most sore in the evening).
- Frequent headaches from the constant strain on your cheek muscle, jaw joint and temples
- Overdeveloped jaw muscles (because you’re giving them a major workout!)
- Shifting teeth
- Flattened chewing surfaces of teeth
- Exposed inner surface of tooth known as “dentin” and, therefore, increased tooth sensitivity
- Chipped, cracked, or split teeth
- Tooth loss
There are a variety of treatments or approaches to either reduce the grinding or the damage it causes, depending on the type of bruxism you have.
You can become more aware of your clenching/grinding habits with behavioral therapy or habit-reversal techniques and consciously work to stop. Because it’s much harder to control what your jaw muscles do in your sleep, this option tends to work better for awake bruxism.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, massages, warm baths, calming music, and a full night’s sleep can help you de-stress and stop grinding if your bruxism is stress-related.
Botox and Xeomin
Botox painless injections can help reduce the grind and lower the muscle mass aleivating pain and lowering the incidence of bruxism
Nightgaurds can help protect your enamel and reduce fractures and chipping while allievate the symptoms of bruxism
Diode Heat laser Therapy
Using the power of the Epic X diode laser, Dr. Steven Davidowitz can generally within 3-4 sessions reduce the inflammation in the muscles of the jaw and help alleviate the acute symptoms of bruxism
Positioning the teeth in a straighter more aligned position for your bite will help prevent improper forces from damaging enamel, teeth, roots and gums.
Medicine is rarely used to treat bruxism, especially if other treatments are helping, but muscle relaxant medication prescribed by your doctor might help you unclench while you sleep.
We Can Help You Stop The Grind!
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Steven Davidowitz if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. It may be due to bruxism, and we can make a plan for how to address it. You don’t want to leave it untreated until it gets to the point where it’s damaging your teeth.
Help us help you keep your teeth healthy!
Dr. Steven Davidowitz, also known as “Dr. D” by his patients, is one of the Upper East Side of NYC Manhattan’s leading cosmetic dentists that specialize in designing and maintaining beautiful smiles.