The effects of clenching or grinding of the teeth are seen daily in our office. The signs and symptoms are too numerous to mention here, however I can relay some of the most common. Most frequently we will see a patient with a complaint of pain, usually difficult to localize, either on one side of the mouth or both. Pain on both sides usually helps rule out a tooth ache. Other common complaints are: difficulty opening or chewing, frequent headaches especially upon waking, noises in the jaw joints, sudden generalized sensitivity of one or multiple teeth, noticeable wear of the biting surfaces of the teeth and fracturing of teeth.
Why people clench or grind their teeth has been discussed for many years. Since it is done mostly during sleep and is involuntary, some believe it is caused by anger, tension, fear or frustration. My personal belief through the observation and treatment of thousands of cases is that they are all correct, but are sub causes that could be listed under the major heading of STRESS. In almost every patient we diagnose as a bruxer, a rise in stress levels during the episodes goes hand in hand. Most of us living in the world in the year 2012 would agree that stress in our lives is higher than it has ever been. The reasons for this are also too numerous to discuss as well.
The question becomes "what can we do about "bruxing?" From a dental standpoint, it is unlikely we can stop the habit. Since the causes are more deeply rooted, one could consider other alternatives such as counseling, relaxation therapy, biofeedback or stress management. Our goal in dentistry for the treatment of bruxism is to diminish the effects. Our most useful modality is a bruxism appliance, also known as a night guard. It can, on occasion, interrupt the signals that complete the bruxing circuit, but mainly it reduces the effects of it on teeth, joints, muscles and other related structures.
Bruxism Appliances will be discussed in the future blogs.
Dr. Ken Alspach