If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw and stiff jaw, you may be doing what 80 to 90 per cent of Canadians have dome at some point in their lives - grinding your teeth in your sleep.
Bruxism - the technical term - can go undetected for years because most grinders are completely unaware of their habit (it's only audible in 20 per cent of cases) and because it damaging effects on the teeth, jaw and jaw muscles can happen so gradually. Women and men are equal opportunity grinders though women are notoriously more susceptible to experiencing TMD, temporamandibular disorder.
Each bruxing session lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes at a time and usually occurs at 90-minute intervals during the night. The effects are often felt in the morning, after a night of heavy grinding and clenching: a sore jaw and popping or clicking sounds in the jaw. After years of bruxing, the results are more visible: fillings start to break down and the front teeth may begin to look flat, chipped and translucent at the edges. By this point, as much as two millimetres of enamel has been worn away.
Stress is the No. 1 reason for the nightly grind. the greater the stress, the harder and more frequent the bruxing. It can also be caused by a less than ideal occlusion (the relationship between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is shut), or triggered by certain medications including some antidepressants.
The treatment of chronic bruxing is the same regardless of the cause: bruxers are advised to wear a customized acrylic nightguard while they sleep. The nightguard helps protect the teeth and prevent muscle and joint pain. Customized acrylic nightguards cost anywhere from $400 to $1300, depending on the severity of the symptoms. The ideal nightguard is completely flat, made of hard acrylic and has been adjusted to your bite. Soft acrylic nightguards or ones that have been improperly fitted do little to protect the jaw and jaw muscles.
Once a bruxer, always a bruxer? Not necessarily. Some people may grind long into their lives, while others brux only at certin times in their lives - the night before an exam or an important meeting, for example. If you suspect you're a grinder, call or email us for an appointment to determine whether it's serious enough to need treatment.