Bruxism is commonly know as tooth grinding, is the clenching together of bottom and upper jaw accompanied by the grinding of the bottom and upper jaw followed by the grinding of the lower set of teeth with the upper set.
This behavior will:
- Remove critical portions of healthy enamel from the chewing surfaces of your teeth
- May cause facial pain.
People who grind and clench their teeth are called bruxers. This condition is found in 20% of adult population during waking hours and 8% during sleep, and up to 18% of children. These individuals unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times like when they sleep, especially in the early part of the night.
During sleep, the biting force (the force at which the jaws clench together) can be up to six times greater than the pressure during waking hours. Nighttime bruxer’s teeth can grind up to 40 minutes for every hour of sleep, with as much as 250 pounds of force per square inch
Signs and Symptoms of Nighttime Bruxism
- Rhythmic crunching or grating noises resembling chewing on crackers or on ice
- Headaches and stiffness of the neck upon awakening in the morning
- Muscle pain in the jaw muscles or a feeling of tightness in the jaws
- Awakening with the teeth clenched together
- Temporomandibular joint pain and clicking sounds
- Chronic facial pain
- Ear pain, stuffiness, or even ringing of the ears
- Increased tooth sensitivity, especially in the morning, which slowly gets better as the day progresses
- Wearing of the teeth, chipping or fractures to the teeth in the absence of trauma
- Chewing of the inner aspects of the cheeks or biting of the tongue
- Teeth that are loose or moving
- Inability to chew without jaw muscles tightening and feeling tired
- Tiredness and sleepiness in the daytim
In treating bruxism we try to change patients’ behavior by teaching them how to rest the tongue, teeth and lips properly. In many cases we can make a plastic mouth appliance, such as a nightguard that’s worn to absorb the force of biting. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth and helps change the patient’s destructive behavior.