Potential Complications of Bruxism
Teeth Grinding, which is officially known as Bruxism is an oral disorder that arises when sufferers grind or clench their teeth, often without realizing it. It usually occurs during sleep, and may create an audible, grating sound. This is often noticed by partners and spouses before the sufferer themself becomes aware that they have this habit.
Although bruxism is not an intentional activity, it can occur during waken hours as well as while the sufferer is asleep. Numerous clinical studies reveal a strong correlation between bruxism and stress. In fact, stress and elevated anxiety levels are now regarded as the most likely causes of bruxism. Sometimes, the disorder is self-propagating, and the frustration that occurs in someone unable to resolve his or her grinding habit can lead to further stress, which perpetuates the cycle. There are several methods of treatment that address bruxism successfully, so it is important to persevere and find the one that works best for you.
Could I be suffering from bruxism?
Teeth grinding symptoms are easily detected, once you know what to look for. They do tend to vary, in accordance with the degree and frequency of your habit. Although most of the population grind their teeth at some point in their lives, if you notice any associated symptoms, it is wise to seek treatment right away. If you leave your habit unchecked, it may lead to serious complications in the future.
Risks associated with bruxism when left untreated
Why is it so important to treat your bruxism habit? Continual tooth grinding will wear down your tooth enamel. Eventually, this can get so bad that the soft dentine and even the pulp inside your teeth are exposed to bacterial attack from the outside. This can rapidly destroy your teeth, and at the very least will cause damage that is expensive to rectify.
Below are a number of bruxism side effects, all of which commonly occur if you leave your habit untreated:
Pressure damage to the teeth – Continual clenching or grinding puts a great deal of pressure on your teeth. Researchers have calculated that the pressure on your teeth during a bruxism episode can exceed 200 pounds/square inch! It is little wonder that bruxism will flatten and wear down your teeth, even causing serious loosening. Any teeth with existing damage can easily break and collapse under such pressure. Sometimes, individuals with bruxism also develop recessed gums.
Headaches and even migraines upon waking – Nightly teeth grinding is usually the cause of morning headaches, and in some cases sleep apnea. The potential risk of developing bruxism-related head pain is equal in both adults and children. It is often very difficult for a sufferer to make the link between their headaches and bruxism, as they are generally asleep when they are grinding their teeth. Very frequently, somebody else in the family will spot an individual’s grinding habit before the person notices it themself.
Problems with digestion – As bruxism rapidly wears down tooth enamel and ultimately exposes the dentine underneath, issues with proper chewing may arise. This inevitably leads to digestive issues. Food that is chewed only partially creates an accumulation of digestive acid, leading to heartburn, reflux and indigestion.
Loss of appetite – Eating often becomes difficult when pain and inflammation arise as a result of bruxism. Children in particular can lose their appetite to such a degree that they develop nutritional deficiencies and experience weight loss. This often causes anxiety, which can lead to more grinding.
Occlusal Trauma – The tooth damage that arises when bruxism is left unchecked can often be quite extreme, leading to something called Occlusal Trauma. This occurs when even slight contact between upper and lower teeth causes tenderness, pain and even movement of teeth. Thankfully, most cases of bruxism are diagnosed and treated well before occlusal trauma becomes a possibility.
TMJ pains and general jaw discomfort – Unconscious teeth clenching usually results in jaw pain and a diagnosis of TMJ.
The effects of bruxism can be minor or extensive, depending largely on the duration and severity of your condition. Therefore, it is very important that you speak to your dentist if you have the slightest suspicion that you are grinding your teeth. Even for a habit in its very early stages, the use of a good mouth guard can prevent complications later on.