Last week, I plucked up the courage to visit the dentist. The truth is I don’t have much of an issue with the doctor, but the dentist is a whole other ballgame.  No one likes to go to the dentist, or at least before, during and after a visit!

I went to the office totally convinced I had cavities everywhere. It’s rare because I have only had a few during my lifetime but I felt so out of sorts, I imagined my mouth was totally ruined.

To my surprise, I didn’t have any cavities but the doctor said I have bruxism. This is when you grind your teeth or gnash them. So my problem is going through life grinding my teeth like the villain in the movie. This leads to jaw and head discomfort, which can be unbearable.

I decided to research the subject and I found out that bruxism is a very common problem. Between 8 to 31% of the general population is affected in some way, although it affects more women than men. Bruxism can present almost imperceptible symptoms. This is one reason why many are unaware the condition exist. (Just like me!☺). It even affects children especially when their milk teeth start to come out and when they are replaced by their permanent teeth. Approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth. Generally, this is done during sleep periods. This behavior can be related to orthodontics issues or gastrointestinal illnesses, nutritional deficiencies and / or psychological components like anxiety or stress.

Many people grind their teeth every now and then. However, Bruxism is produced when this is done on a frequent basis with pressure. There are two types of bruxism: One type occurs during sleep. This discomfort will be felt during the morning hours and diminish during the day. The other type occurs during the day and has the opposite behavior of the one occurring at night.

 

There is no unique or well defined reason for grinding your teeth. As in children, it is related to an imperfect bite caused by crooked teeth, anxiety and stress. In the case of bruxism during sleep, this can be related to sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea or not resting well at night based on external agents.

It may seem harmless beyond the customary jaw pain or headaches. It may also cause hypersensitivity to your teeth. However, over time, bruxism can wear and tear your teeth resulting in damage, breakage and other complications to previous dental work. It can also damage your jaw and modify the appearance of your face. So, if you have symptoms or suspicions that you’re grinding your teeth too much while you sleep, or if your partner hears you doing it at night, you should visit the dentist.

 

More importantly and to properly treat the issue, it is necessary to discover the origin of the disorder. Do you sleep well at night or poorly? Are problems affecting you? Are you nervous or furious about something? If the problem is psychological, stress management therapy will help to relax your whole body, even your mouth!

Daily exercise like Pilates, Yoga or meditation can help you to better handle stress in a natural way. This will help to improve your body too! (I can testify to that!) Hobbies are another option, as small as they may be. Just dedicate a little time each and every day. This will help you disregard your daily issues.

Exercises with a physical therapist and taking muscle relaxing medication are other choices to help solve the problems. A healthy lifestyle as always is the cure to all ills! Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake can also help reduce grinding your teeth. It is also important to eliminate habits like chewing pencils, nails, pens and everything and anything that is not food!

Finally, chewing gum can make bruxism worse. So try to eliminate it!

It is possible the doctor may recommend the use of retainers or mouth guards to keep your teeth separate and avoid the damage caused by grinding or gnashing. These devices can be made of hard acrylic or soft material that fit over your upper and lower teeth.

If the problem is orthodontics, if you have a crooked or dislocated bite, your doctor may recommend correcting the issue. It is not very economical and many social works do not cover it but it will save you greater problems in the future. And it will improve your quality of life.  You may doubt this but it’s never too late to improve your smile! Even in severe cases – when the wear and tear on the teeth has already occurred, or if can no longer chew correctly – you can still get the required oral surgery. (That’s why it’s important to visit the dentist before it’s too late!)

I hope you pay attention to this advice! Pluck up your courage, as I did, and go to the dentist. As my grandmother always says: Prevention is better than a cure!

Have a lovely week!