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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) 

What causes teeth grinding?

Chronic teeth grinding (known as bruxism) has different causes, some of which can be treated and others which may require a lifestyle change to address.

The problem with teeth grinding is that it wears out the enamel of your tooth, which can lead to fractures or breakage of dental reconstructions.

To treat the condition, it’s good to first know the possible factors that may contribute it.

Chronic Stress

When stressed, people often clench their teeth, and some may grind them.  It may be that you tighten your jaw on your way to work or school.  Or that you wake up feeling soreness in your jaw.

It is imperative to reduce stress as much as possible.  Self-care is imperative.  That may mean reducing or eliminating caffeine and stimulants, and getting regular exercise so your body can self-regulate.  Also, a few minutes of daily meditation activates the relaxation response (the parasympathetic drive) to help calm the mind.  

Sleep Apnea

Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may often cause bruxism.  The clenching and grinding of teeth occurs as you’re deprived of oxygen, causing your muscles to tighten as you gasp for a breath of air.  You may never realize that this is happening until you begin to notice your teeth wearing and chipping away.  If your sleep partner notices you snoring, breathing irregularly, or hearing your teeth grind, you may be suffering from OSA.  If so, it is prudent to get a clinical sleep study done.

Protecting Your Smile

If you have any concerns of teeth grinding, discuss it with your dentist.  Here are a following things to consider:

  • Protective bite splints—A custom bite splint or night guard prevents the jaws from full contact, avoiding teeth wear.  Smaller bite splints can easily be worn throughout the day, giving you enough space so your jaw is relaxed while your mouth is closed.
  • Therapeutic Injectables—Therapeutic injectables such as botox has be used to treat facial wrinkles.  However, they can also be used as natural muscle relaxants, reducing tension headaches, TMJ disorders, and related muscle fatigue caused by chronic teeth grinding.
  • Oral sleep appliances—If sleep apnea is the cause of teeth grinding, an oral sleep appliance may provide immediate relief as it positions the lower jaw to naturally open airway, and like a night guard, doesn’t allow the teeth to make contact with one another.
  • Lips together, teeth apart—When teeth grinding becomes a habit, it helps to reprogram our bite.  Ideally, our mouth rests with the lips together and teeth about a pen’s width apart.

To learn how to manage chronic teeth grinding, schedule an appointment with our restorative dentist at (626) 288-8940.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.