Bruxism is defined as grinding one’s teeth usually accompanied by clenching of the jaws. In some cases observable symptoms may be present such as headaches, facial muscle pain or soreness, chronic discomfort of a tooth or group of teeth and pain or soreness in the joints of the jaws.
This grinding of the teeth can be very powerful and destructive. The teeth can be worn down significantly with the natural surfaces polished flat and the tooth diminished greatly in size. Existing fillings can be fractured and the porcelain of crowns damaged beyond simple repair. Another finding believed to be caused by grinding is the appearance of notches or grooves, sometimes very deep and not associated with pain, that are located on the side of the tooth at the level of the gums.
It is most common for bruxism to occur at night when one is asleep as this is an involuntary behavior. The cause for bruxism is not known but it is suspected that stress, genetics, and one’s bite arrangement have some influence. The great majority of people who have some degree of bruxism are not even aware that they grind their teeth. In some cases their spouse may have observed or heard (!) their partner grind their teeth at night. Without the symptoms mentioned above it requires a dental examination to determine that the teeth are being worn away.
The treatment for grinding is typically to have a mouth guard also known as a splint, made. The mouth guard is similar to an athletic mouth guard but smaller, more comfortable and custom made. The splint is made out of hard acrylic; soft splints are not effective to provide a proper and protected bite. The splint is made for either the upper teeth or the lower arch but both jaws are not covered at the same time. The splint provides a “perfect” bite allowing the lower jaw to find its natural most comfortable position but the teeth themselves are not changed nor are their positions altered.
David Silberman DDS FAGD
General, Cosmetic Dentistry, and Orthodontics; for children and adults