That unsettling noise that you might occasionally hear in the middle of the night could be the sound of 40-million Americans feverishly grinding their teeth.
Many of us are plagued with bruxism – the formal term for teeth grinding and clenching – but most people don’t gash their teeth consistently. Only 10 percent of us grind so hard and so often that they fracture their fillings, crack their crowns, and/or destroy their dentures.
The Nightly Grind
Bruxism is a nocturnal activity; about 70% of all teeth grinding happens when we’re sleeping. Some people do brux during the daytime as well, most often during situations that make them feel tense or anxious. But most of us won’t engage in full-on teeth grinding during the day as we’d hear the horrible noises emanating from our poor, punished teeth and knock it off pretty quickly.
Conversely, it’s common for people to be totally unaware they are nocturnal gnashers. An aggravated partner, denied sleep due to the sound of grinding, is the most common indicator that there is a problem. Sore jaws, a clicking sound when you open your mouth, a dull constant headache that originates around the temples, tender teeth, and even indentations on your lounge are other typical signs.
The causes of bruxism are many. It could be an unconscious reaction to teeth that don’t line up properly. It can be a response to tension. It could be a side effect of some medicines (Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are known to cause grinding in some people). And it could be just a habit.
But it’s a habit that’s best to break, as it can severely damage teeth and gums, wreck your expensive dental work, deprive your partner of sleep, and even permanently distort your face due to swollen muscles near the sides of the lower jaw.
Kids and Bruxism
Kids are far more likely to grind their teeth than adults, and children less than five years old are more likely to clench, gnash, and otherwise stress their teeth while sleeping. About 33% of kids grind their teeth.
If you hear your kid grinding his or her teeth on a regular basis, t’s a good idea to discuss the issue with your family dentist. The good news is that most children outgrow bruxism by the time they hit adolescence and don’t cause permanent damage to their teeth.
Solutions and Treatments
If you suspect that your bruxism is related to stress, you can try finding ways to reduce or control your anxiety. What calms one person simply annoys another, so you need to find what works for you from limiting caffeine, to yoga, getting more sleep, or seeing a therapist.
You can also try reprogramming yourself. During the day, when you feel your jaw clenching, make a point of relaxing your lower facial muscles, parting your teeth slightly and putting the very tip of your tongue between your teeth. Overtime, this can help you relax and break the jaw clenching habit.
For anything more than the occasional bout of teeth grinding, you should see your dentist. He or she will check your bite and general dental health, and will probably ask about any medicines you take or stress that you have in your life.
The most common preventative treatment for severe cases of teeth grinding is to wear what’s called “a night bite plate” or a “bite splint.” Your dentist will fit one for you, some fit over the bottom teeth, others go on the top. In general they work by compensating for misaligned teeth or by keeping your jaw more relaxed.
Other treatments for severe bruxism include muscle relaxants, tooth realignment – and most recently some dentists are investigating the use of Botox injected into jaw muscles. The Botox weakens the muscles’ clenching power, in theory resulting in less dental damage no matter how hard and frequently patients may grind their teeth.
Dental care can help stop the damage caused by bruxism. If you’ve been putting off seeing a dentist due to cost, you’ll be happy to know that their affordable alternative to paying out of pocket and pricey insurance: a dental savings plan from :DentalPlans. One low annual payment entitles families to discounts on dental procedures – from emergency care to check-ups, even orthodontia.
To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.