The Daily Grind: How to Stop Bruxism from Ruining Your Smile

When you wake up in the morning, does your jaw hurt?  Have you noticed small chips on your teeth, even though you haven't had a tooth injury?  Between 30 to 40 million people suffer from bruxism: the act of grinding or clenching your teeth.  Here are a few ways to prevent bruxism from ruining your smile.

Know the Signs

To lessen the effects of bruxism, you must first be able to recognize the signs of it.  Here are a few red flags:

  • You have fractured, loose, or chipped teeth.
  • Your jaw feels painful, sore, or tight.
  • Your teeth have become increasingly sensitive.
  • You experience dull headaches that originate in your temples.
  • Your partner hears you grinding your teeth at night.

If you suspect you've been grinding your teeth, you can ask your dentist to screen you for bruxism.  Then, you can seek treatment.   

Find the Trigger

Bruxism is often associated with another problem.  If you can find the connection, you can alleviate your bruxism symptoms.  Here are some common reasons why you may be clenching or grinding your teeth:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Bruxism is sometimes associated with sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where your jaw obstructs your airway.  This prevents your body from entering the deepest state of sleep.  In an attempt to reopen the airway, your brain sends a signal to the jaw to grind and clench your teeth.  To help improve your sleep apnea and bruxism, your doctor may suggest losing weight, sleeping on your side, and perhaps using a mask that provides air pressure and helps keep your upper airway passages open.
  • Stress and anxiety: Almost 70% of bruxism is a result of stress or anxiety. Professional counseling, exercise, and meditation are all ways to reduce stress.  

Managing Bruxism

While there isn't a cure for bruxism, there are a few ways your dentist can help you manage your condition:

  • Occlusal splints: These small, plastic guards are designed to keep your teeth separated and limit jaw movement.  As a result, premature tooth wear and jaw pain are often reduced.   
  • Mandibular advancement devices (MADs): These push the lower jaw and tongue forward giving you more space to breathe. As a result, MADs can significantly reduce sleep bruxism. 

Fixing the Damage

In the event your grinding habits have already caused some damage, you don't have to worry.  A cosmetic dentist can help you fix your smile with the following procedures:

  • Gum grafts: Bruxism can cause gum recession, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.  For this reason, you may need to get gum grafts to restore the tissue and cover any exposed roots.  Typically, this surgical procedure involves cutting a flap of skin from the roof of your mouth.  Next, tissue from underneath the flap is removed.  This tissue, called subepithelial connective tissue, is then attached to the area where the root is exposed.
  • Crowns: With severe cases of bruxism, your dentist might use crowns to completely change the shape of your teeth's biting surfaces.  After getting new crowns, you may still have to wear a splint or other guard to make sure the problem doesn't happen again.

Bruxism can be damaging.  However, you don't have to let it ruin your smile.  For more information, talk to a professional like Picone Dental - Vincent J Picone DDS.