If you wake up in the morning with a dull pain in your face, head, or neck, it is likely that you are one of the 14% of adults who suffers from teeth grinding, or bruxism to use the scientific term. The condition causes the sufferer to grind or clench their teeth during the night, with painful consequences. Clenching may also occur unconsciously during the day.
You may be wondering how it occurs and if it’s treatable. Your first port of call should be to your dentist, who might well refer you to your doctor. Before such a visit, it’s useful to gather your medical records, note relevant personal information, list your symptoms, and any medication you’re taking, and finally, make a list of your questions. Here are the most important questions you should ask your dentist about your problem.
What is exactly my problem?
Firstly, you need to know if anything is wrong with your face, head, or neck. Your dentist will examine you thoroughly and take a precise history. If your dentist diagnoses bruxism, he or she will explain the condition. After being briefed on your condition, you will be able to give more useful information to your dentist or ask more specific questions.
This is the most frequent question that people ask their dentists. Although the bruxism causes are mostly unknown, your dentist will try to uncover and explain the likely causes and risk factors of your specific condition. You may be able to provide further information of your history and symptoms that will help in your diagnosis and treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of bruxism?
Ask your dentist about the typical bruxism symptoms such as jaw pain, headache, facial pain, frequent toothaches, loose teeth, worn or cracked teeth, insomnia, and earache. Knowing what to look out for is important in helping your dentist identify and treat the problem.
Can I rule out other conditions?
Your dentist may detect other disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, other dental problems or an ear infection.
Is my lifestyle responsible?
An aggressive or hyperactive personality type can contribute to bruxism. Similarly, emotions, such as frustration, anxiety, stress, or anger may trigger the condition. Occasionally, it may be a coping strategy. Ask your dentist about the possible connection between these factors and your bruxism.
How can I be sure that I’m grinding my teeth during sleep?
Often, an irritated partner whose sleep is being disturbed will be the first to discover the problem. If you sleep alone, or have any doubt, your dentist will be able to spot the signs.
Could my routine medications cause bruxism?
Some psychiatric medications, such as phenothiazines and certain antidepressants can cause this condition. Ask your dentist about the possible side-effects of any drugs you are using.
Is there anything wrong with my jaws?
After careful assessment, your dentist will tell you if you have a malocclusion (abnormality in the coming together of teeth) and if it has any bearing on your bruxism.
Could my medical conditions cause bruxism?
Medical conditions such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease and even stomach acid reflux may cause bruxism in some people, so make sure you run through your medical conditions with your dentist.
Are my snoring and breathing pauses related to my condition?
Typically, nocturnal bruxism is a sleep-related disorder. Sufferers are more likely to have other sleep problems, such as snoring and pauses in breathing. Your dentist should be able to say whether your snoring or other sleep-related problems will be resolved once your bruxism has been treated. They may need to be separately addressed.
Is my condition likely temporary or long-term?
Ask your dentist about the duration of your condition. Depending on its severity, your dentist should be able to tell you whether it’s temporary or not.
What is the best way to cure my bruxism?
Apart from finding out about the nature and cause of bruxism, what you really want to know is how to get over it. Your dentist will outline various treatment plans, depending on the severity and nature of your condition, which may consist of a combination of approaches.
Can dental treatment prevent my bruxism?
This is a crucial question that you should put to your dentist. Generally, dental approaches such as splints and mouth guards (made of hard acrylic or soft materials), dental correction (realignment, crowns, braces, oral surgery) may prevent or correct the damage to your teeth, but they may not stop the condition.
Will wearing a night guard interfere with my sleep?
Don’t forget to ask how to deal with your night guard for the first few nights.
What kinds of mouth guards are available?
Your dentist will outline the various mouth guards available such as off-the-counter guards, self-moldable dental bites, and customised mouth guards that are put in place by a dentist.
Which mouth guard suits my condition best?
Ask about the dental bite best suited to your condition. You can ask for soft, hybrid and hard models depending on the severity of your bruxism.
Does my mouth guard go on the upper teeth, lower teeth or both?
Your dentist will give you the best options.
How often should I visit my dentist?
Depending on the severity of your condition, your dentist will advise you about the required intervals between visits.
How often do I need to change my night guard?
Depending on its quality and the severity of your condition, your dentist will advise on the longevity of the device.
Can I just use a sports guard?
Your dentist will explain the difference between mouth guards and sports guards.
How should I take care of my night guard?
Don’t forget to find out how to store your mouth guard and keep it clean.
How can I stop clenching and grinding my teeth during the day?
In addition to a mouth guard, your dentist will have some recommendations on this.
Which treatments can prevent my bruxism?
Ask your dentist about the required therapies to prevent bruxism. He or she will outline different therapies such as stress management, behavioural therapy, biofeedback, and NTI tension suppression system.
How can my bruxism be stopped by biofeedback?
Your dentist will explain the mechanism that a biofeedback headband uses to alert you to teeth grinding during sleep.
Are there any specific exercises to cure my daytime bruxism?
Ask your dentists about jaw and tongue exercises that could help alleviate your condition.
Are any medications effective in treating bruxism?
Generally, medications have not proven effective in treating bruxism. However, your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants or Botox injections.
Are there any lifestyle or home remedies that might help treat my bruxism?
Ask your dentist if you could make any lifestyle changes, or avail of any home remedies, that might help. Depending on your case, your dentist will recommend self-care steps such as reducing stress, avoiding stimulating substances in the evening such as coffee and alcohol, and practicing good sleep habits.
How much do these treatments cost?
You should always ask the cost of bruxism treatment so there are no nasty surprises when it comes to paying.
What if my bruxism is left untreated?
Usually, mild bruxism has no serious consequences and needs no treatment. So ask your dentist if it’s safe to ignore it. Most cases of bruxism can damage your teeth and dental restorations, cause severe facial pain, headaches, and temporomandibular joint disorders. If you have the following symptoms of bruxism, your dentist will strongly recommend a treatment:
- Pain in your face, head, or neck
- Worn or sensitive teeth
- Loud grinding noise that disturbs others as you sleep
- Difficulty opening or closing your jaw
Are there any alternatives such as home remedies I can try?
Ask your dentist for alternative treatments. Based on the severity of your condition, your dentist might limit your treatment to home care such as physiotherapy, medications, or a combination of these and clinical procedures. Home care may include physiotherapy of the mastication muscles, diathermy, modification of eating habits and diet.
What kinds of tests are required?
Ask your dentist about supplementary tests beyond the standard dental examination. These may include examining the temporomandibular joint, ear, facial and masticatory muscles. X-rays may be taken. Your dentist may refer you to other specialists such as a sleep specialist who will carry out more tests (eg, video monitoring and measuring how often your jaw muscles tighten while you sleep, and assessment for sleep apnea).
Will my health insurance cover treatment?
Don’t forget to ask this question. Your dentist should be able to guide you here.
Are there any brochures on the subject?
Because appointments can be brief, you may leave wanting more information. Ask your dentist for any brochures, relevant websites, or other reading material on bruxism.