In the realm of dentistry, while advancements in dental restoration have been monumental, there is an undeniable truth that nothing surpasses the allure and function of our natural teeth. Hence, our practice holds prevention and preservation of the natural smile paramount. Recognising the adverse impact of teeth grinding, both nocturnal and diurnal, we encourage our patients to address this often-overlooked issue.
Bruxism, in its essence, refers to the involuntary habit of grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. While many cases manifest during sleep, it is not unusual for individuals to exhibit bruxism symptoms while chewing and swallowing food. Yet, for a staggering 20-40% of the population, teeth are in constant friction, resulting in what is clinically termed bruxism or teeth grinding.
Interestingly, bruxism doesn’t just involve teeth grinding. It comprises two distinct actions: sideways movement of teeth without any significant contact (grinding) and forcefully clenching the upper and lower teeth (clenching). This constant contact and movement wreak havoc on tooth enamel, leading to its deterioration and strain on the musculature and bones supporting the teeth.
Finding the Root Cause
The predominant cause fueling bruxism is believed to be stress and anxiety, resulting in an involuntary ‘tightening up’ of the oral musculature, particularly the masseter or the principal jaw muscle. As time elapses, this muscle gains strength, exerting colossal force during teeth clenching.
Additionally, bruxism isn’t an ailment confined to adulthood. It can manifest early in life and persist, intensifying during stress-laden periods. To put the detrimental force of bruxism into perspective, typical tooth wear progresses at approximately 0.3mm per decade. In contrast, a person with pronounced bruxism can experience an enamel loss of about 2mm by their mid-twenties. The exerted force can soar up to 113 kilograms per square inch – a force potent enough to fracture a walnut!
Identifying the Symptoms
Individuals grappling with bruxism often display a spectrum of symptoms:
- Flattened front teeth with uniform length.
- The presence of micro-cracks and compromised fillings causes potential nerve damage.
- Receding gums due to persistent pressure.
- Loosened teeth stemming from the oscillatory effect of grinding and exacerbated gum pockets intensify gum diseases.
- Chronic headaches, migraines, and jaw pain due to muscular overuse.
- Distinct snoring patterns.
While bruxism is an incurable condition, it mandates adept management, especially given dental professionals’ considerable challenges. This is due to the immense forces acting against natural tooth enamel and dental restorations.
Comprehensive Bruxism Treatment
Our approach to managing bruxism is both systematic and empathetic:
- Patient Interview:A comprehensive discussion concerning your lifestyle, dental, and general health.
- Muscle Evaluation:A meticulous examination of your masticatory muscles. A diagnosis of bruxism becomes evident with observed muscular hypertrophy in the jaw region and characteristic white lines on the inner cheeks.
- Dental Impression:For precise treatment, impressions of both dental arches are taken, either through traditional alginate impressions or advanced digital scans using the 3Shape Trios Scanner.
- Bite Plate/Night Guard Fitting:A custom-fitted bite plate or night guard is provided in your subsequent visit. This apparatus is meticulously checked for fit and adjusted to suit your unique bite.
Maintaining Your Night Guard
A night guard requires regular care:
- Always clean it post-use, ensuring it’s not left to dry.
- Use cold water for cleaning to prevent warping. An old toothbrush and mild soap should suffice. Toothpaste and mouthwash are discouraged.
- Allow it to air-dry thoroughly.
- Ensure it’s stored safely, considering its susceptibility to be discarded accidentally or attract pets.
- Regularly inspect for wear and tear. Any significant damage mandates a replacement.
Regular use of a night guard offers invaluable protection against tooth wear, chipping, gum recession, and even tooth discolouration. Considering its benefits, investing in one is advisable.