If you suffer from bruxism (teeth clenching), or have noticed excessive wear on your teeth, you have an important decision to make: what are you going to do about it? You have to make the decision carefully, because what you decide will control the future of your teeth.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There are many different reasons why people grind their teeth. Your teeth grinding could be related to one or more of the following common causes:
- Misaligned teeth and jaw
- Stress or anxiety
- Substance use
- Sleep disorders
If your teeth and jaw are misaligned, you might be clenching your teeth to try to find a point of balance. Sometimes you might find this balance point after wearing down your teeth, but often you destroy your teeth while still experiencing the negative effects of clenching and grinding.
Stress and anxiety can cause people to clench and grind. Most people suffer high levels of stress and anxiety periodically. If you are stressed more often than not, you might want to pursue treatment
Substance use can include illegal drugs, but it also means alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, which disrupt your sleep and contribute to clenching and grinding.
Clenching and grinding might run in your family. If you have one or more family members who ground their teeth away, you might be more likely to do it, too.
Sleep disorders often cause clenching and grinding. Your jaw is the main support for your throat, and if your throat tends to narrow or collapse at night, causing snoring or sleep apnea, you might clench to keep your airway open.
Some medications have clenching and grinding as a side effect. Check the labels of your prescriptions to see if this might be responsible for your clenching and grinding. If so, ask your doctor if there are other treatment options.
Options for Treating Clenching and Grinding
There are many potential approaches for addressing your clenching and grinding, though not all are appropriate for every cause.
Option 1: Do Nothing
You always have the option of doing nothing about this problem. After all, maybe it will correct on its own, right?
Probably not. No matter what may be true of the majority of TMJ sufferers, in cases where you have noticeable wear on your teeth because of the problem, chances are it’s only going to get worse. As your teeth continue to wear down, your jaw will move further out of position, which will increase stress on the jaw muscles and jaw joint, which will tend to increase episodes of bruxism. You will notice more jaw pain and headaches.
And once you’ve worn through the enamel on your teeth, exposing the softer dentin inside, wear can accelerate, and your teeth will be even more vulnerable to decay.
Option 2: A Removable Orthotic
Another potential option is to have a removable orthotic, also called a bite splint. This not only creates a physical barrier that can protect your teeth, especially from night clenching, but it puts your jaws in a healthier position, resulting in less tension in the jaw muscles and therefore fewer episodes of bruxism, as well as less headaches and other symptoms of TMJ.
The removable orthotic also has several other benefits. You can wear it as much as you like, allowing you to transition gradually into repositioning your bite. This approach can effectively protect your teeth no matter the cause of grinding, and it can be therapeutic for misaligned teeth and jaws or sleep disorders.
Option 3: A Fixed Orthotic
A fixed orthotic has similar treatment goals to the removable orthotic, but it’s bonded to the teeth. This can help if you need to wear your orthotic all day to influence your bite position. It also helps if your bite needs very precise adjustment that isn’t being properly controlled by your removable orthotic, which has a much more variable position in your mouth and on your teeth.
A fixed orthotic can be therapeutic for misaligned teeth and jaws or sleep disorders.
Option 4: Full Mouth Reconstruction
Full mouth reconstruction takes the fixed orthotic principle, but instead of using an orthotic, we reconstruct your worn teeth to hold your jaw in a proper position. This is a significant treatment, it’s invasive and permanent, and we take great care in making sure that the reconstruction will give you the desired results before we attempt it. Typically, you’ll have had a removable orthotic and/or a fixed orthotic beforehand, giving you plenty of time to appreciate the results of repositioning your bite.
Full mouth reconstruction is therapeutic for misaligned teeth and jaws.
Option 5: Muscle Relaxants
Sometimes the best approach is trying to keep the muscles from clenching too tightly. You can do this with muscle relaxants. Often, muscle relaxants are pills that you take before going to bed. However, you can also relax muscles with botox injections. Pills cause short-term relaxation that can target specific times of clenching, such as when you clench and grind at night. Botox injections provide 24-hour muscle relaxation that lasts for up to six months.
These are not therapeutic for any type of clenching, but they can protect your teeth from all types. They can also reduce other symptoms related to clenching and grinding, such as headaches.
Option 6: Lifestyle Changes
You can also address some causes of clenching and grinding by making lifestyle changes. Cutting down on caffeine consumption, avoiding alcohol in the evenings, and quitting smoking can all reduce your tendency to clench and grind your teeth.
You can also improve your sleep hygiene by avoiding TV, internet, and social media use before bed.
These can help with lifestyle-related clenching and grinding.
Option 7: Stress Reduction
If your clenching and grinding are related to high stress levels, you can try to reduce your stress. Identify the sources of stress and cut out what you can. Try meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques to combat stress you can’t cut out of your life.
If necessary, you should seek professional help. This is often the only way to successfully overcome stress and anxiety in your life.
Let Us Help You Find the Best Option for You
If you are concerned about the grinding down of your teeth and want to learn more about your options, please call (912) 234-8282 for an appointment with a Savannah neuromuscular dentist at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry.