When people are stressed, they sometimes clenchtheir jaw and grind their teeth, which is called bruxism, and this can happen day ornight, sometimes lasting a few days, and other times going on for months, and it’s usuallythat longterm grinding that can really cause problems. Grinding the top and bottom teeth togethercan lead to something called dental abfractionâ€”a loss of tooth structure, and dental attrition,which is when the biting surfaces of teeth get flattened out. Eventually this can wearaway the protectiveouter surface of the toothâ€”the enamel, to
reveal the much more sensitive dentin below,resulting in tooth hypersensitivity and an increased risk of cavities. When it’s severe, bruxism can even causea tooth fracture, tooth loosening, and even the loss of teeth, as well as damage any existingdental work like crowns and fillings. Occasionally, people with bruxism bite theirtongue as well, which can lead to crenated or scalloped tongueâ€”tooth shaped indentationson the tongue, and they sometimes they have canker sores from chewing their lips and innercheeks. Bruxism can also lead to temporomandibularjoint disorder, or TMJ, which involves the
muscles that help with chewingâ€”the temporalis,masseter, and pterygoid muscles. All three of these work together to move themandible, or the jawbone. Clenching these muscles over and over canbe tiring and painful especially in the preauricular area, which is right in front of the ear andcause headaches around the temples of the head. Bruxism can also lead to inflammation of theperiodontal ligaments, which are the tiny ligaments that attach each tooth to the bonysocket that they are nestled in, making chewing quite painful.
Finally, over time, from the repeated clenching,chewing muscles can hypertrophy or grow, which only worsens the grinding action by makingit more powerful and therefore more painful. Bruxism is an unconscious behavior, and whenit happens at night, it’s called â€œsleep bruxismâ€� or â€œnocturnal bruxismâ€�. Typically, sleep bruxism is noticed by familyor friends, who hear the clicking and grinding sounds that the person makes as they grindtheir teeth and move their jaw while sleeping. Night bruxism can leave a person feeling adull, persistent headache and sore jaws when they wake up, both of which might slowly improvethroughout the day.
For awake or â€œdiurnalâ€� bruxism, thereare a couple key differences. First, people don’t feel jaw pain upon waking,but instead their pain worsens throughout the day. Second, they don’t usually make grindingand clicking noises like in sleep bruxism. And third, awake bruxism is more stronglyassociated with stress, and is often accompanied by other behaviors like biting the inner cheeksand nails. Bruxism is caused by a variety of things. First, some evidence points to it being causedby improperly aligned teeth, which results
in irregular contact between the upper andlower teeth. Other clues point to other cause like stress,dehydration, medication side effects, and use of recreational drugs like such as MDMA,commonly known as ecstasy. Treatment for bruxism can take a lot of forms. For awake bruxism, one therapy involves behaviormodification to help someone gain conscious control over the behavior. For example, someone might learn to noticewhen they are clenching their jaw, and then intervene by placing the tip of their tonguebetween their top and bottom teeth as a reminder