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Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is caused by stress and anxiety. The brain, under stress, causes hyperactivity in the chewing muscles. Frustrations are taken out on teeth in the form of clenching and grinding.  Bruxism can happen day or night. During the daytime, people can catch themselves in the act of clenching or tapping teeth together. Training yourself to stop grinding, when you are aware, can reduce the impulse to do it unconsciously. Daytime bruxism can be stopped by relaxing the jaw and placing the tip of your tongue between your teeth.

The worst teeth grinding occurs while asleep. Bruxism obviously cannot be stopped at night because it happens unconsciously. The classic signs of bruxism at night are tired and sore jaw muscles in the morning. Teeth grinding at night sounds like a screeching noise to a spouse or partner. Nighttime grinding can interrupt deep sleep. Sleep apnea has been associated with bruxism as part of the cycle of breathing stopping.

Bruxism may be caused by a malocclusion (bad bite) or crooked teeth. Misaligned teeth can shift and move causing interferences to normal chewing. The brain activates muscles to work out bite problems by grinding them down. Missing teeth and gum disease may also cause bite problems and lead to teeth grinding.

Medications, including antidepressants, are known to cause bruxism too. Children grind their teeth from brain hyperactivity and bite changes, but these rarely create problems.

Adult teeth grinding can cause big problems. Teeth can chip, crack or break. Cracks can cause temperature sensitive teeth. Sore jaw muscles and headaches can lead to TMD/ TMJ problem. Extreme bruxism creates severely worn teeth. Teeth look jagged and feel sharp at first, eventually they wear down and become flat and short. Enamel can wear away completely, causing tooth pain. Root canals, crowns, bridges, dental implants or even dentures may be necessary.

When bruxism is bad, a night guard, can protect your teeth and reduce grinding at night. A night guard covers teeth and blunt the forces of bruxism. It also establishes a new bite designed to balance forces, relax muscles and stop the urge to grind while saving precious enamel.

Bruxism can’t be cured but you can manage stress with exercise and good sleep. Minimizing emotional and physical stressors can stop grinding. Daytime relaxation techniques, like meditation or yoga, are also helpful. Dr Kriston has specialized training in treating bruxism and can alert you to factors that may be contributing to your clenching and grinding. He’ll also help you address lifestyle changes and create a customized night guard to reduce your grinding and protect your teeth.


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Michael Kriston, DDS

903 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Suite 120 Danville, CA 94526

Phone: (925) 838-2900 | Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM