A: Bruxism is the name of a condition in which one excessively grinds and clenches one’s teeth. It comes from a Greek word that loosely translates “to gnash the teeth.” The condition can affect a person at night, during the day or both. Early symptoms caused by the condition are usually a dull headache or a painful jaw. Other symptoms could be painful, loose or noticeably worn teeth and a heightened sensitivity to cold and touch. In severe cases, bruxism can crack tooth enamel, chip or break teeth. During sleep, bruxism can cause a person’s jaws to clench together with a pressure up to six times greater than the pressure during waking hours.
A variety of factors can contribute to the onset of bruxism. Stress (and these days there’s plenty of that to go around), a sleep disorder, an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth all can be factors. The best person to talk to if you’re suffering from bruxism is your dentist. If it turns out that stress, for instance, is at the root of the problem, it’s possible that physical therapy or counseling could help. In some cases, dentists will fit patients with a mouth guard that protects teeth at night.
Information provided by Dr. Steven Neville, Bondurant Family Dentistry, 100 Second St. N.E., Bondurant, 515-967-4002.