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Are you a teeth grinder or a mouth breaker?

You may not even realize you’re doing it, especially while you’re sleeping. But your jaw can creak and grind with up to 250 pounds of force. Ouch!

Chronic, involuntary teeth grinding — technically called bruxism — can lead to all sorts of health issues. You could crack or fracture your teeth, which may require crowns or dental implants. You could also wear down your tooth enamel, leading to periodontal disease or tooth loss.

Teeth grinding can cause chronic head, neck and ear pain. This can lead to migraines, noise sensitivity and tinnitus, said Captain(N) (Dr) Cecilia Brown, director of dental services at Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the most severe cases, you may need a total replacement of your jaw hinge joint. Surgeons can implant a titanium joint. This is necessary when bruxism wears down cartilage in the jaw, so moving the mouth grinds bone against bone, Brown said.

Bruxism, to varying degrees, is common. Up to 30% of people grind their teeth in some way, and estimates suggest that around 10% to 15% of adults suffer from painful bruxism while sleeping, according to Lt. Col. Preston Duffin of the Air Force, director of orofacial pain at the 59th Dental Training Squadron-Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

“Most people have some degree of clenching, grinding, muscle shielding or other jaw activity during the day and night that is not associated with normal functioning such as eating, talking or swallowing,” said said Duffin.

Any “evidence of excessive tooth wear” could warrant treatment, he said.

Many people don’t understand how harmful teeth grinding can be.

“It’s very difficult to manage and hard to get patients to understand” the possible consequences, Brown said.
Bruxism as a coping mechanism

“You can’t identify one thing” that leads to the bruxism behavior, Brown said. But teeth grinding and jaw clenching can be stress coping mechanisms. Bruxism also appears in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Active duty military personnel on deployment may develop bruxism due to sleep deprivation, stress, or poor diet. Some people grit their teeth to stay focused, Brown said.

Teeth grinding can occur day and night.

“If you have this disease during the day when you bite your tongue” to keep your words, it’s a coping mechanism you’ll probably feel in your jaw muscles when you get home or when you’re not off duty and you’ll relax, Brown mentioned.

At night, bruxism occurs during dream periods when your body has more muscle activity. “It’s involuntary and unconscious,” Brown said.

If your facial muscles are working all the time, “like a bodybuilder’s muscles, they get big, sore, and inflamed,” she said. Eventually, this can prevent you from fully opening your mouth.

Those with obstructive sleep apnea or fibromyalgia are also susceptible to bruxism.
Night shifts and other treatments

The first line of defense is to wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. But it may or may not work. “Some people go through the night watchman,” Brown said.

TRICARE covers the TRICARE website night guards when medically necessary.

As a rule of thumb, “if you’re aware of nighttime grinding and wake up in the morning with jaw pain or fatigue, there’s a better chance you’ll respond well to nighttime custodial therapy,” a said Duffin.

Beyond a night watchman, Brown said, there are a variety of treatment options that can reduce the frequency or damage caused by teeth grinding. They understand:

Physiotherapy such as massage, compresses and mouth stretching exercises
Treatment of acid reflux, which is a factor in the development of bruxism
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Muscle relaxants
Botulinum toxin injections (Botox)
Anti-anxiety drugs
A diet limited to soft, non-chewable foods
Change the pillows if they are not firm enough

Has the pandemic increased cases of bruxism? Duffin said he can “certainly say that patients have a greater tendency to complain of higher levels of perceived stress and anxiety, which likely influences increased activities like bruxism, pain at the jaw and tooth wear”.

While many people with bruxism have mild symptoms, in some cases it can turn into a serious condition.

“Bruxism is a real condition that is very debilitating,” Brown said. “We need to make sure our doctors can identify it and try to intervene earlier.”

Date taken: 03.01.2022
Date posted: 03.02.2022 11:21
Story ID: 415589
Location: we

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