According to the Mayo clinic, bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. You may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day or grind them at night.“Bruxism may be mild and may not even require treatment. However, it can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. Because you may have sleep bruxism (a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth at night) and be unaware of it until complications develop, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care.”
I Have an Earache, not a Tooth Ache!
As Dr. Wells will tell you, symptoms of bruxism are wildly varied. Some, like worn down or broken teeth, are easy for the dentist to spot. Many others, however, seemingly have no relation to your teeth at all. I can attest to that.
What you can’t see really can hurt you:
I’m somewhat proud of my teeth. They’re relatively straight, reasonably white, and heck—I’ve never had a cavity. I have seen the dentist twice a year, without fail, for as long as I can remember. So why is this a cautionary tale, you ask? The answer is simple. I may have visited my dentist twice a year without fail, but I did not communicate with him effectively at all. This lack of communication led me to unwittingly clench my way into a severe case of TMJ disorder.
I am (or was) a nighttime, clenching bruxer. I had no idea I was clenching my teeth together. And because clenching does not have the tendency to chip, crack or wear down teeth the same way grinding does, nor did my dentist. There was nothing for him to see. That does not mean I had no symptoms however. Many mornings I would wake with a terrible headache. My jaw felt tired and sore. I would often have earaches.
Yet at every appointment, when asked if I had any concerns, my answer was “no”. The worsening headaches? From stress I would reason. The earaches? I attributed those to too many laps in the pool. The locked jaw that felt as if it could snap at any moment? Well… I couldn’t explain that away. By the time I felt as though my symptoms were worthy of mention to my dentist, I had pretty much destroyed both temporomandibular (jaw) joints. My only option? Two separate surgeries to replace the joints. These were major operations, each requiring over-night stays in the hospital and about nine weeks of physical therapy.
Although I am happy to report that the surgeries were successful and I am now pain free, had I only mentioned my symptoms to my dentist when they first presented themselves, early intervention and simple treatment options could have saved me years of considerable pain, and the need for surgery.
Speak up! The following are reasons to see your dentist:
- Jaw pain or tightness in your jaw muscles
- Chronic facial pain
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
- Teeth that are worn down, flattened, or chipped
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
- Chewed tissue on the inside of your cheek
- Indentations on your tongue
Do it now!
Bruxing can be very destructive to both your teeth and your jaw joints if left unchecked. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, Dr. James A. Wells and his staff at South Charlotte Dentistry encourage you to make an appointment at his office in Ballantyne. From simple relaxation techniques that may help you to curb your bruxing, to non-invasive custom splints designed to protect your teeth while keeping your jaw joints properly aligned, to special crowns, bridges, or partials made to give you a “proper bite”, Dr. Wells has a range of treatment and intervention options that, if implemented early, will keep your smile beautiful and pain-free.