Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, is a common condition that's often linked to stress, anxiety, abnormal bites, missing or crooked teeth, and certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. It's a largely unconscious behavior that can occur during both day and night, often without the person being aware of it.
Symptoms of bruxism include:
Worn, cracked, or broken teeth
Jaw pain, neck pain, or even back muscle pain or tenderness
Facial pain, earaches, or headaches
Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet substances
If left untreated, bruxism can lead to more serious dental problems like tooth loss and TMJ disorders.
One of the most effective treatments for bruxism is the use of a nightguard. These devices, which are made from soft plastic or rubber, fit over your upper or lower teeth to prevent them from touching, thereby reducing tooth wear and helping to alleviate associated symptoms like jaw pain and headaches.
While over-the-counter nightguards are available, dentists typically recommend custom-made ones. Custom nightguards are molded to the exact shape of your mouth, ensuring a better fit and greater comfort. They are also more durable than their over-the-counter counterparts.
In addition to wearing a nightguard, it's important to practice good stress management and relaxation techniques to help reduce teeth grinding and clenching. Taking steps to consciously relax your face and jaw muscles throughout the day can also help prevent bruxism.
Regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection and treatment of bruxism. Even if you're not experiencing discomfort or pain, your dentist or dental hygienist may be able to detect signs of bruxism and recommend appropriate treatment.