Everyday stress can really cause us to suffer, even in New Hampshire! You’ve probably already heard that high blood pressure and increased cortisol levels are linked to stress, but even your teeth can be negatively affected. Picture the jaw muscle twitch of someone in a stressful situation. Tooth grinding and clenching are common reactions to stress but can also be caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. Certain medications can also cause you to grind your teeth. Regardless of the cause, the result can be a lot of damage to your teeth.
Grinding and clenching your teeth, also called bruxism, exerts a lot more force than your typical biting and chewing techniques do. The excess pressure can cause tooth fractures and cracks, flattening and wearing down the biting surfaces and can even lead to loose teeth due to periodontal tissue damage. The excessive pressure also affects the muscles and joints in your jaw joint (TMJ) which can result in jaw joint and neck pain, muscle spasms, earaches and headaches.
Tooth Grinding During Sleep
While you may or may not be aware of bruxism during the day, more often it happens at night while you sleep. Sometimes sleeping partners may become aware of the grinding noise but often it happens silently. Clenching makes no sound. If you wake up with pain in your jaw joint or a headache it could be a sign of nighttime bruxism.
Some children grind their teeth while sleeping. Respiratory infections, ear infections or allergies can be a factor. Parents might hear the noise their child makes as he grinds his teeth or notice excessive tooth wear and sensitivity.
Diagnosing and Treating Tooth Grinding
Having regular dental exams is important to detect damage early in the process. Your dentist can notice abnormal wear patterns on your teeth as well as cracks, craze lines and fractures. An exam to determine the health of your jaw joint can detect and identify the source of pain that may result from grinding or clenching.
Your dentist may recommend one or more treatment options based on your exam:
A night guard to protect your teeth
Adjustment of an abnormal bite
How a Night Guard Helps
A night guard can be made for either your upper or lower teeth. There are at least seven types of custom night guards and different materials for fabrication, each one specific for a different type of bite. Yours will be custom-designed by your dentist for your unique bite. The night guard evens out the forces and protects the chewing surfaces of your teeth, including crowns, implants and bridgework. It also allows your jaw muscles to relax into a natural position, often relieving TMJ pain. This thin plastic appliance is unobtrusive and comfortable.
If you have signs or symptoms of tooth grinding or clenching, consider an evaluation at New Hampshire Center for Comprehensive Dentistry. The restorative dentists have additional training in diagnosing and treating bruxism for your best result. Don’t let stress ruin your smile. Contact us today for night guard amherst nh.