Have you ever woken up with a headache, earache or pain in your jaws? Do you disturb your partner or roommate in the middle of night? If you answer yes to these questions, you may be grinding your teeth at night, an annoying problem that could lead to more serious oral health issues.
About 15 percent of people grind their teeth regularly. Some do it because they have an abnormal alignment of the teeth while others may be experiencing anxiety, stress or suppressed anger.
Grinding can be mild and occasional or can be so frequent and violent that the teeth are damaged, warned Ed Schooley, D.D.S., a national oral health adviser for Delta Dental Plans Association. A serious problem could lead to some very serious consequences.
Even mild cases of teeth grinding may cause chronic facial pain and muscle fatigue. Moderate to more severe grinding can wear down tooth enamel and dental fillings. Ultimately, a serious problem could result in crown replacements, root canals or possibly tooth extractions and replacement with dentures. Any of these consequences can be painful, expensive and could leave a person with a lifetime of serious oral health problems.
There are a number of treatment options that can be used alone or in combination to provide relief to those who grind their teeth. For some, a night guard or protective dental wear might be necessary. Adjustment of the bite pattern may also be beneficial for some people. Another method of treatment is biofeedback, which teaches patients how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too great. Stress reduction and coping techniques can also be initiated to reduce emotional stress.
Signs and symptoms of grinding teeth should not be taken lightly, said Dr. Schooley. Its important to have your dentist assess the extent of the problem and potential damage. Its also critical to remain vigilant about your oral hygiene habits to head off additional oral health complications.
Based in Oak Brook, Ill., Delta Dental Plans Association is a national network of independently operated not-for-profit dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to 45 million Americans in more than 76,000 employer groups throughout the country.
From the July 20-26, 2005, issue