Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is quite common: The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 8% of adults grind their teeth at night, and that rate is believed to be even higher in children. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Signs of Bruxism
Teeth grinding occurs most often at night. Signs of teeth grinding include:
     -Teeth with flat biting surfaces
     -Worn-down tooth enamel
     -Chipped or loose teeth

Bruxism can also lead to symptoms like tooth sensitivity, pain in the jaw muscles or jaw joint, and headache in the temples, especially upon waking. If you notice these signs or symptoms in yourself, your partner, or your child, it’s time to talk to your dentist or orthodontist.

The Connection Between Bruxism and Poor Sleep
While many people believe bruxism is primarily caused by stress and anxiety, there’s often a more serious underlying physical cause. Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, for one, can lead to bruxism. This is because the body does anything it can to get adequate airflow during sleep. If the airway is blocked, the jaw may shift from side to side – grinding teeth against each other in the process – in order to open the airway.  

The Connection Between Bruxism and Oral Health
Bruxism may be caused by crooked teeth or a misaligned bite and in turn, can cause problems with the teeth and jaw if not dealt with properly. Prolonged grinding can wear away protective enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to decay. The force from grinding can lead to chipped or cracked teeth and can damage dental work, such as crowns. It also puts strain on the jaw joint, which can lead to, or exacerbate, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

What to Do About Bruxism
There are several options when it comes to addressing bruxism. The appropriate treatment depends on the underlying cause.  

For example, if bruxism is caused by a closed nasal passage, then nasal strips or nasal decongestants that open the airway can be enough to cure it. If it’s caused by a bad bite or crooked teeth, braces or other orthodontic intervention may solve the underlying problem. Regardless of cause, a simple, easy and common solution for chronic teeth-grinders is to wear a night guard that physically prevents the surfaces of the teeth from grinding against each other. At TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of Chicago, we have our patients practice myofunctional therapy. This involves a series of facial exercises that retrain the tongue, lips, jaw, and facial muscles to develop better oral habits and can ease the pain caused by bruxism.

Talk to Your Dentist or Orthodontist
Don’t ignore teeth grinding. It’s more than a minor annoyance – it can be the sign of a significant problem that may lead to oral health problems later down the road. Talk about it with your dentist or orthodontist and make a plan to address it right away.