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Grinding Of Teeth

Alternate Names

  • bruxism
  • Tooth

Definition

Grinding or clenching of the teeth usually occurs when a person is asleep. Sometimes, it can also take place while a person is awake. The grinding noise can be quite noticeable to others who are nearby, even though the person does not realize he or she is doing it.

What is going on in the body?

Clenching or grinding the teeth is a mechanism for release of emotional stress. When a person is awake, the action often occurs during anger, intense concentration, or physical exertion. The teeth grinding is unintentional and occurs at inappropriate times. The person is generally unaware of the teeth grinding.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Emotional stress and certain personality types are associated with teeth grinding. People with anger, pain, or frustration may start grinding their teeth. Aggressive, hurried, or overly competitive people may also experience teeth grinding. The grinding can also be caused by an abnormal alignment of the teeth or jaw. It is sometimes connected to drug and alcohol use. Teeth grinding is common in children when their teeth are coming in.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Prevention and treatment of this condition are very similar. Treatment is aimed at stopping the habitual clenching or grinding of the teeth. A person should visit a dentist as soon as he or she is aware of this problem.
Prevention and treatment may include:
  • bite modification procedures, sometimes called bite equilibration
  • biofeedback therapy
  • mild sleeping aids
  • mouthguards to wear at night
  • muscle relaxants
  • orthodontia, that is, special dental appliances such as braces
  • repair of faulty dental crowns or restorations
  • replacement of missing teeth
  • stress management counseling

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of teeth grinding begins with a medical history and physical exam. Sometimes, a dentist is the first to discover the problem, by detecting certain changes when looking inside the person's mouth. The person may be totally unaware of the condition, especially in the early stages. Dental X-rays can show early damage to the bone as well as to the teeth.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

If ignored or inadequately treated, teeth grinding can lead to the following serious complications:
  • gingivitis, or gum inflammation
  • loss of teeth
  • periodontitis, or inflammation of tissue around the base of a tooth
  • severe wear on teeth
  • temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

If teeth grinding is treated early and adequately, there should be no lasting problems.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Regular exams by a dentist can check for complications of teeth grinding. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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