Are You Wearing down Your Teeth as You Sleep?

There are multiple factors that contribute to increased stress in our lives, including relocating or moving to new locations, being away from family or otherwise having family issues, or changing jobs. These levels of very high stress, can subsequently lead to the formation of a habit which often goes unnoticed: bruxism.

Bruxism is nothing more than the habit of grinding your teeth, most of the time unconsciously and during sleep.

An attentive dentist can identify patterns of wear on the teeth that will lead to the final diagnosis of bruxism through a comprehensive clinical examination. It is then very important for the patient to be convinced early enough of the condition so they can treat it, avoiding serious damage to the dentition.

Severe bruxism can cause enough wear that patients begin to suffer dental fractures, experience outbursts of cavities due to exposure of dentin (which is more brittle than enamel) and tooth loss. Eventually, the shortening of dental arches can consequently cause irreversible damage to the temporomandibular joint (“TMJ”).

All these factors can be very painful, manifesting either locally, such as "simple" toothache, or in some cases, evolving to even migraines, fatigue in the facial muscles, and difficulty opening and closing the mouth.

Other triggers of tooth grinding include drug use, excessive alcohol consumption, sleep apnea, improper fillings and premature contact in the bite (occlusion), but stress appears to be the major cause.

A big challenge toward diagnosing and treatingbruxism is that the afflicted person often is unaware that they grind because in many cases, it occurs when they are asleep. In this case, spouses or family members can play an important role raising awareness.

Dentists treat bruxism with mouth guards made exclusively for each patient. The preferred guard material is hard acrylic because it establishes a perfect (occlusal) bite, which will lead to a better complacency, increased muscle relaxation and therefore less grinding. Silicone or more malleable guards can trigger a worsening in the habit since patients tend to bite them further. The same applies to generic guards purchased from the pharmacy since they are not customized, they do not fit correctly which tends to increase the habit.

With an early diagnosis and treatment, unnecessary destruction of dental structures can be avoided, as well as high expenses in subsequent treatments that sometimes require a complete oral rehabilitation. As I always say, prevention is always the best deal.

For more information contact Lake Lucerne Dentistry at (407) 410-4489.