Much like how a cat purrs when it is content, these critters grind, or brux, their teeth—creating a sound like that of purring.
For these animals, their teeth are constantly growing enamel, so their happy grinding habit, along with lots and lots of chewing, actually helps them maintain a healthy mouth.
Unfortunately for us humans, the tooth enamel we have is all we’ve got. While we can take measures to strengthen our enamel with fluoride there is no replacing it once it is worn away. For this reason, tooth grinding can be incredibly detrimental to the health of our teeth.
HERE ARE THE TOP 10 QUESTIONS WE OFTEN HEAR ABOUT TOOTH GRINDING:
1. WHAT IS BRUXISM?
To put it simply, bruxism is the act of tooth grinding. It is an involuntary habit, often occurring during sleep, of grinding, gnashing, and/or clenching your teeth.
Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. And those affected by it are more likely to have other sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea.
Severe tooth grinding when untreated can lead to tooth damage, jaw disorders, and headaches.
2. WHY DO PEOPLE GRIND THEIR TEETH?
Grinding done during the day is often a result of stress and anxiety, though it can also be a result of an abnormal bite. The same is true for night bruxism, though it can be caused by sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
3. HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M GRINDING MY TEETH?
It is important for those who may have sleep bruxism to know the signs of the disorder since they are not conscious they may be doing it. While in extreme cases it can be loud enough that your partner or housemates can hear the grinding—even from another room—this isn’t always the case.
If you often wake up with a sore jaw or dull headache, it is very likely you have been grinding your teeth in your sleep.
If you believe you are grinding your teeth, a dental exam can help to confirm your suspicions. Your dentist will look for signs like jaw tenderness and excessive wear on your teeth. If they determine you have sleep bruxism they will develop a treatment plan for you.
4. HOW CAN I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS GRINDING THEIR TEETH?
About 26%of children grind their teeth—usually when asleep. Bruxism in children is most common as their baby teeth begin to emerge and later as their permanent teeth come in. Once the set of teeth has fully developed, the habit usually stops on its own.
During your child’s regular routine exams the dentist will be looking for signs of bruxism. Just as with adults, bruxism in children can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage. If your child complains of tooth sensitivity or pain you should consult your dentist.
5. HOW MUCH DAMAGE CAN TOOTH GRINDING REALLY CAUSE?
Tooth grinding wears down enamel, creates tooth sensitivity, and leads to chipped teeth. Severe cases of bruxism can result in fractures and the loosening of teeth as well as tooth loss.
Chronic grinding, when left untreated, can lead to reducing teeth to mere stubs—affecting the way your jaw closes, teeth meet, and in turn, the appearance of your face. This can result in discomfort, pain, and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD/TMJ).
6. CAN I MAKE IT STOP ON MY OWN?
There are many ways you can take action on your own to prevent and/or reduce bruxism.
Cut down your consumption of caffeine by limiting your intake of coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. Alcohol is also known to exacerbate the habit. Interestingly, all of the above can lead to dehydration, which is in itself correlates with bruxism.
7. MY GRINDING IS STRESS RELATED—HOW CAN I RELAX?
If your bruxism is stress related, you’re in luck because there are many tools available today to help people manage their stress. You may want to find a professional who can provide stress counseling or physical therapy. A regular exercise routine helps to reduce stress. You might also find you enjoy practicing mindfulness through yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises as a way to relax.
8. IF SLEEP BRUXISM IS UNCONSCIOUS HOW CAN I MAKE IT STOP?
If a sleeping disorder is the cause of your grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder and have not already been diagnosed. You should also talk to your dentist to develop a treatment plan to address your sleep bruxism.
9. WHAT DO I DO IF IT’S A SIDE EFFECT TO A MEDICATION?
Sometimes grinding can be a side effect of medications. Coordinate care with your doctor and dentist to find the best solution for your needs and overall well-being. For some, this may mean changing the medication while others will need to develop a treatment plan with their dentist.
10. HOW CAN MY DENTIST HELP ME?
Depending on your unique circumstances your dentist will create a custom treatment plan. This may involve an oral appliance to wear at night. It may also involve reconstructive work to remedy damage from excessive grinding. This could involve fillings, crowns, or implants. Your dentist can also make custom recommendations for actions you can take at home to manage your bruxism.