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Teeth Grinding: What You Need To Know

Here at the start of 2020, we’re making even more smiles happen at SCO as we begin our TENTH year as a practice. Over the past decade as your local orthodontist, I’ve been asked a LOT of questions about teeth. Crooked teeth and over/underbites top the list of course, but bruxism (teeth grinding) also seems to be on everyone’s mind…literally.

“I get horrible headaches from grinding/clenching my teeth. How can I stop?”

“Why am I grinding?”

“My child grinds her teeth in her sleep; should I be worried?”

“How much damage is it actually causing?”

Most of us actually experience periods of grinding during our life; in fact one third of all children grind their teeth as they grow. Generally the frequency increases as each set of teeth comes in, and then subsides as they get older.

So, while it may sound like nails on a chalkboard, I usually tell concerned parents that as long as the permanent teeth aren’t getting damaged, bruxism of the baby teeth will most often resolve itself over time.

If the permanent teeth are seeing some damage, in both children and adults, that is when I typically will step in with some sort of appliance, like a mouth guard or retainer, to prevent the teeth from touching while asleep. (As a side note, I believe everyone should do this anyway to maximize the lifespan of healthy teeth!) The appliance customization will vary depending on the severity of the issue. To determine how severe someone’s grinding problems may be, here are some questions we ask:

Do you have a difficult time sleeping?

Have you struggled with sleep apnea?

Do you break a lot of crowns?

Do you wake up with headaches?

We ask these questions because the reality is that grinding your teeth can cause way more problems than headaches and jaw pain. Over time, excessive grinding can lead to severely worn teeth that cause loose teeth and a misaligned bite that requires orthodontic and restorative correction.

So, before we have to go down that road in symptomatic patients, we encourage prevention with the use of a mouth guard, along with some lifestyle changes to help set you up for (teeth) rest and (jaw) relaxation!

  • Stop chronic chewing gum
  • Avoid hard, difficult-to-chew foods
  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress
  • Adopt a calm, no-screen, bedtime routine
  • Evaluate medications for possible associations

This is a broad overview of a large issue and you may have more questions. If you would like to know more or see how we have treated bruxism patients in our office, please check out the videos below. Remember, my team and I are always happy to help and are only a phone call or text away!

Keep smiling,

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