Sleep bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is the technical term for clenching and grinding teeth during sleep (which can also happen when awake). Unless a partner is awake and hears it (even grinding can be subtle, unlike snoring), the only way to find out if you do this is to have a dental exam. This is one reason it is important to have one twice a year, since oral health can deteriorate fast even in six months.

Early Symptoms to Look Out For

The early symptoms may be sore jaw muscles, more sensitive (even painful) teeth, a dull headache starting at the temples, or sore neck and shoulders from unconscious tension. However, other health problems like TMJ Disorder can cause facial soreness, bruxism is often a sign of the serious disorder sleep apnea (often accompanied by acid reflux), and sodas or aggressive brushing can erode enamel.

Dr. Marine can detect if teeth are being worn down or even fractured, there is an increase in cavities, damage has been done to dental work, or cheeks have been frequently bitten. If it would help diagnosis, she may have a digital x-ray taken (involving minimal radiation) to see if the pressure on teeth has affected the underlying jawbone.

Stress and Anxiety are Common Causes of Bruxism

According to the Mayo Clinic, bruxism is often caused by stress and anxiety or drinking beverages with caffeine or alcohol at night. Stress and anxiety can be reduced by addressing the causes, taking appropriate medications or nutritional supplement alternatives, using muscle relaxants, or learning to control jaw muscle activity with biofeedback to teach you how to control jaw muscle activity, and training to keep the jaw in the correct position. In severe cases, dental surgery might be required to improve a bite that is a factor in bruxism. 

But many cases can simply be remedied by having Dr. Marine prepare a custom-made mouth guard known as a night guard, similar to what athletes wear when they play to avoid damage to teeth, to be worn while you sleep. An impression needs to be taken for a dental laboratory to produce one that is unique for your mouth. This is worn only while you sleep to prevent further damage.

If you believe you may be suffering from bruxism, call Pacific Dental Care today to set an appointment for a full dental examination.