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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) & Clenching

Man grinding/clenching his teeth

Did you know that there are certain bad habits that can be detrimental to your teeth? Certain habits can negatively impact your teeth and overall oral health. Among these bad habits are teeth grinding and clenching. Often times, both habits are related to anxiety and can cause headaches, facial pain, and excess wear on your teeth.

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are two different symptoms of a condition called bruxism. Bruxism is the unconscious grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw muscles that usually occurs in response to anxiety. There are two types of bruxism, waking and sleeping, and these different types can have different causes.

Waking bruxism refers to the unconscious grinding or clenching when an individual is awake. This type of bruxism is almost exclusively said to be caused by a source of stress or anxiety. Such sources can include demanding job, financial troubles, and mood disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder. Generally speaking, waking bruxism can be best treated when the source of stress or anxiety is addressed.

Sleeping bruxism, on the other hand, refers to grinding or clenching that occurs at night when an individual is asleep. However, the most common symptom of sleeping bruxism is teeth grinding. It has been found that teeth grinding occurs in people with sleep apnea and occurs when a person is closer to consciousness during their sleep patterns. Recent research has confirmed this change in consciousness during teeth grinding, however the causes of sleeping bruxism are still being evaluated.

Although teeth grinding and jaw clenching are both manifestations of bruxism, they are different conditions that have different symptoms. Teeth grinding, for example, is usually harder on the teeth than jaw clenching, and can actually change the structure of the teeth, wear down the enamel, expose the  dentin, and fracture teeth from stress. Consequently, the most common symptoms of teeth grinding are excess wear on teeth and tooth sensitivity that is exhibited through pain when drinking cold liquids.

Jaw clenching, on the other hand, is a much different problem that has its own set of symptoms. Because jaw clenching primarily affects the jaw, its symptoms include tenderness, pain, or fatigue in the jaw muscles. These issues are especially noticed and exasperated when chewing. Another possible symptom are headaches, primarily tension headaches that are localized around the temple region. A final common symptom is masseter hypertrophy, or enlarged jaw muscles that have developed as a result of the constant flexing.

In order to resolve these issues, you will want to schedule a consultation with Dr. Batra. She will evaluate your teeth for signs of wear and check your jaw for signs of clenching. If she believes that you are, in fact, affected by bruxism, she will most likely recommend a few different treatment options.

The first option is to use a mouth guard or splint to protect your teeth from excessive wear. This also reduces the sensation of grinding and can reduce the pain caused by grinding. Other possible treatment options are muscle-relaxation exercises or stress reduction.

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