Tooth grinding, or bruxism, is a condition where individuals consciously or unconsciously grind, gnash or clench the teeth. While the phenomenon can happen during the daytime, especially when the individual is under stress, grinding the teeth occurs with more regularity during periods of sleep. Both adults and children of both genders may develop bruxism. Fortunately, there are several ways to go about treating tooth grinding before severe damage to the teeth and jaw muscles are permanently impacted.
For people who tend to grind their teeth during sleep, consulting a dentist is normally an excellent idea. The dentist can outfit the individual with a mouth guard that will cushion the teeth and prevent the grinding action from resulting in damage to the enamel as well as chipping from the pressure created by the grinding action. While it is possible to purchase over the counter mouth guard equipment, the fit is not always ideal and may only serve to minimize the damage done to the teeth and jawbone. A professionally fitted night guard designed to the exact specifications of the upper and lower plates of teeth will cost more, but in the long run is a much better option.
Another approach to dealing with tooth grinding is professional counseling. Clenching and grinding the teeth is often a physical manifestation of stress and tension. Counseling can help to identify the origin of the stress and make it possible to find more constructive ways to manage tension at home, school, or in the workplace. As the coping skills of the individual improves, the tooth grinding will begin to subside.
Behavior modification is another possible way to deal with tooth grinding. This involves becoming aware of when the action begins to occur and consciously taking steps to break the pattern. One simple approach is to develop the habit of curling the tongue slightly so that the tip rests on the roof of the mouth. At the same time, position the teeth so the upper and lower plates are separated slightly but the lips are closed. As this position becomes more natural, it will help inhibit the frequency of tooth grinding in many people.
In general, taking medication is not recommended as a way to deal with tooth grinding. However, a physician may recommend taking some type of muscle relaxer or anti-anxiety medication before bedtime as one way to deal with the situation. This is especially true of the physician believes temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, is present. This condition may develop as a direct result of grinding the teeth over an extended period of time. TMJ is often made manifest by the presence of jaw pain when chewing food, moving the jaw when speaking, and by headaches that are recurring and somewhat severe.
Dealing with tooth grinding early on will help to minimize any damage to the teeth and make it easier to preserve overall dental health. Anyone who is currently experiences the grinding of teeth during the day or while sleeping should consult a health care professional to determine the reasons behind the activity and to obtain effective treatment as soon as possible.