Modern life can be tough! Even with the great technological innovations we have at our disposal, life still becomes overwhelming. People clench and grind in response to stress.  We experience stress in our lives in many forms; it can be related to work, concentration, travel, emotional states, being overwhelmed and the list goes on.  There are studies out now which show modern life is actually more stressful than our more primitive life was. Thus, we are seeing an increase in clenching and grinding in people with more modern lifestyles.

Clenching and grinding, also called bruxism, is, for the most part, a completely unconscious habit, done day or night or even both.  When one clenches and grinds their teeth, they are not only putting extreme stresses on their teeth and the gums and bones that support their teeth, but also on the muscles involved.  After many years these same structures will start to show signs of breakdown. A dentist doing a thorough evaluation may detect cracks, worn edges, fractures, gum recession and mobilities in the teeth. They may also find popping and clicking in the joints and /or limited opening of the jaw.  Some muscles may even get bigger with all the extra exercise they are doing.  Clenching and grinding can also cause chronic headaches, neck pain and sore facial muscles.

There are a few different types of treatments for bruxism, depending on the needs of the patient. If a patient only has a daytime habit, treatment can start with the dentist helping the patient understand their habit and its negative consequences. The patient can then work to change their subconscious behavior (trying to be more conscious) to reduce or hopefully eliminate the habit.  Patients with a night time habit of clenching and grinding may require an oral guard to help protect the teeth and joints and re-train their neuromuscular system to a healthier jaw position. Increasingly, injectable therapies are being adopted as a safe, preferred alternative to treating bruxism. Using a localized muscle infusion technique, we can painlessly inject a muscle-relaxing compound directly into the muscles that are doing the most damage. The doctors in our clinic have all taken advanced courses in TMD and employ several different aspects of treatment. Most people are completely unaware if they are clenching and grinding. That’s why it is important to get a good oral exam.

We only get one set of these beautiful pearls (we can’t count baby teeth here), and we need to not only brush and floss them, but we also need to be aware of our habits, and be kind to them.

Respectfully submitted by
Dr. Gail Willow
Expat Dental