I see bruxers every single day in my practice. Bruxers are people who habitually clench/grind their teeth. Quite often people are bruxers without even realizing it because most people grind their teeth in their sleep. So how do you know if you’re a bruxer?
a) Do you ever wake up with a clenched jaw?
b) Do the muscles around your jaw ever feel sore or tight?
c) Do you have a lot of worn/flat edges on your teeth?
d) Are any of your teeth chipped? Have you ever chipped or broken a tooth?
e) Do you get frequent headaches originating from the temple region?
f) Do you have sensitive teeth?
g) Has anybody every told you they could hear you grinding your teeth in the middle of the night?
h) Do you suffer from a lot of stress?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, there is a very good chance that you are a bruxer.
Now, you may be wondering why stress was a question. Stress is a major contributor to how much people grind their teeth. Think about when people are stressed; they carry a lot of tension in their shoulders and neck. That tension can carry all the way up into the jaw area. When patients come to our office, we will ask them these types of questions and examine the condition of their teeth, and from that we can normally determine if they do clench or grind. Bruxing can lead to all kinds of problems:
- Teeth that are chipped, broken, worn, flattened, and uneven. I have even seen teeth split in half from heavy-duty grinding. In other severe cases, people can wear off all the enamel on the edges of their teeth, exposing the dentin underneath.
- Sensitivity. Sometimes people think they have a cavity or even an abscess from the level of discomfort they‘re experiencing, but sometimes it’s simply due to the heavy load and stresses they’re placing on their teeth as they grind.
- Aesthetic issues. Teeth can become shortened over time from continual grinding, or have a chipped/jagged appearance, both of which can affect a person’s self-image and confidence about their smile.
- TMJ issues. Bruxing places a lot of pressure on your jaw joints, and over time people can develop conditions related to their TMJs, such as clicking or lockjaw.
- Muscle tension or soreness. These muscles are highly active during clenching/grinding, which can lead to soreness and fatigue.
What can you do about it? We often prescribe night guards (aka splints) for patients to wear at nighttime. This prevents further wear and tear to the teeth and can also help relieve stress on the muscles and TMJ. Some people are day-bruxers, and for those people I mostly just tell them they have to make a conscious effort to avoid doing it. Massage, chiropractic, and physiotherapy are all useful modalities to help relieve stress in the muscles as well. Bottom line, if you think you might be a bruxer, talk to your dentist to do something about it.