While some studies give this conservative estimate of the prevalence of bruxism, others estimate that 1 out of every 3 adults may deal with the condition.
Bruxism, or nightly tooth grinding, might seem like a minor problem, but it can have major implications for those affected — both in the short- and long-term picture.
Signs and Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
If you grind your teeth at night, you may wake up every morning with a sore jaw and a dull headache. Your teeth may be extremely sensitive to hot and cold, and it may hurt to chew. You may have earaches. Your teeth may appear flattened on the chewing surfaces, and you clearly can spot patches of worn-out enamel.
All these are signs that you have a clenching, grinding or gritting problem, and you may not even be aware of it because you only do it at night, while asleep.
How Serious Is the Condition?
Those who do not grind their teeth can expect their tooth enamel to wear down gradually. Over the course of a decade, tooth enamel decreases by a rate of 0.3 millimeters.
Tooth enamel reduction is starkly different for those suffering from bruxism. Depending on the severity of the condition, they might lose up to 0.2 millimeters of tooth enamel in only a few years.
Bruxism Affects Your Oral Health
Of course, all extreme cases of bruxism require immediate dental intervention, but the end result of years of even mild bruxism can take a serious toll on oral health.
Teeth can begin to loosen and may even fall out. They could fracture, exposing the inner pulp to bacterial infections, which could result in root canals and implants. The constant jaw pressure could lead to joint disorders that require corrective surgery in the future.
Bruxism Can Be a Sign of Another Condition
Perhaps one of the most concerning issues related to bruxism is the underlying cause. The vast majority of cases are believed to be related to stress and anxiety. Tension leads to a chronic clenching of the jaw at night. Long-term mental and emotional stress wears down the body, and bruxism is only one of the external signs of this issue.
Bruxism also can be a physiological issue, such as malocclusion, or misalignment of the jaw, commonly called a “bad bite.” You may need surgical treatment to fully treat malocclusion, but it could completely correct your tooth-grinding problem.
Those with bruxism also might have sleep apnea, a condition in which the muscles that control your air passages collapse during sleep and lead to constant interruption of natural sleep patterns. Sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of heart problems, high blood pressure and depression.
Get a Professional Assessment
Regardless of the severity of your bruxism, make an appointment with a dental professional right away. It’s important to determine the cause, and to get expert recommendations on how to decrease symptoms and address the root issues.
The doctors at Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery are experienced in diagnosing and treating bruxism in patients of all ages, and are available for consultations today.