A Stressful Condition: Clenching & Grinding
Sometimes people exposed to chronic stress or high-pressure situations
can develop a damaging habit known as bruxism: unconsciously biting
down with too much force at non-mealtimes. It can happen at night
or during the day, is generally found in about one third of the
population, and is more prevalent amongst women. The inappropriate
tendency to constantly clench or grind the teeth may be related
to poor stress management, since bruxers are often those personality
types who react to stress with anger, pain, frustration, aggression
or competition. Sometimes, it's a conscious attempt to force the
upper and lower teeth to touch at all times. People with bruxism
may have other 'biting' habits as well: such as biting fingernails,
pencils, lips, or the insides of their cheeks. In any case, it's
a harmful habit that wears down biting surfaces, causes bite imbalances,
and can lead to serious dental problems.
A Solid Solution: Protection & Rest
Since bruxers are often unaware of their habit, we carefully evaluate
all our patients for the problem, checking for fractured or chipped
teeth, excessively worn or flat teeth, worn enamel, unexplained
tooth or gum sensitivity, jaw pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
pain, popping and clicking jaws, tense muscles, headaches, partially
exposed and sensitive tooth interior (dentin), and/or tongue indentations.
Severe bruxism can even lead to a dislocated jaw! Then, if you're
a bruxer, we can do several things to help break the habit, treat
the pain, and eliminate further damage to your teeth and oral structures.
This may involve fitting you with an orthotic appliance or nightguard
to stop the trigger mechanism that initiates the unconscious clenching
and grinding. Sometimes, wearing the guard will eliminate the problem.
If not, we can do further examination to determine the cause, while
in the meantime advising continuous wearing of the guard to spare
the teeth from further damage.
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