Bruxism (Clenching or Grinding)

Nearly everyone clenches or grinds their teeth to some degree, without realizing it. But in about 50% of the population, it actually becomes a damaging habit known as bruxism. Bruxism may result from chronic stress or high-pressure situations, poor bite alignment, or other conditions. Studies have shown that many bruxers are those personality types who react to stress with anger, pain, frustration, or aggressively and competitively. In Clenching and grindingother cases, bruxism is a conscious attempt to force the upper and lower teeth to touch at all times. What’s more, people with bruxism often have other 'biting' habits as well: such as biting fingernails, pencils, lips, or the insides of their cheeks. In any case, it’s a harmful habit that wears down biting surfaces, misaligns the bite, and can lead to serious dental problems such as gum recession, gum sensitivity, and chronic head or facial pain.

Sensitivity & Symptoms

Because bruxers are often entirely unaware of their habit, Dr. Hampton will generally do an automatic check for such a problem. Typically, he’ll look for the following warning signs indicating that you need help with bruxism: unexplained sensitivity in teeth and gums, jaw pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, popping and clicking jaws, tense muscles, headaches, excessive wear or flatness on teeth, worn enamel, partially exposed and sensitive tooth interior (dentin), and/or tongue indentations. In severe cases, frequent clenching and grinding may cause the entire jaw to move out of balance.

Conscious Rest & Protection from Stress

The good news is that once a person becomes aware of the problem, they can often break the habit of bruxism and prevent further damage. Dr. Hampton may recommend behavior therapy, where the patient learns to consciously rest the tongue, teeth and lips in a healthy position: tongue upward, teeth apart, lips closed. In addition, for patients who require extra protection and reinforcement, Dr. Hampton can take an impression and create a custom-fit bite-absorbing plastic appliance for day and/or night use. And in even more serious cases, patients can use biofeedback via electronic instruments that measure muscle activity. This method may help ‘teach’ people to consciously reduce their own muscle activity, by making them aware of those times that they are biting down too hard.

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