Bruxism: You may not know the word, but you may suffer with it. Bruxism is commonly known as teeth grinding. Teeth grinding occurs both when we are awake and more commonly when we sleep. Bruxism causes havoc on teeth, wearing down the surfaces, and in advanced stages, even causing dental fractures and jaw pain.
Dentists can fit patients who grind their teeth with mouth guards to wear at night. These bite guards will eliminate the tooth to tooth contact, thus reducing the damage to teeth. Often people who grind their teeth at night also have oral “mannerisms” during the day such as excessive gum chewing, nail biting, jaw play and mouth and jaw tic-like behaviors.
Bruxism occurs in many sectors of the population, but has a much higher incidence among those who suffer social anxiety. Social anxiety is defined as severe panic and anxiety prior to and accompanying any social interactions.
Bruxism is among the many diseases where a dentist and other health professionals can work together to diagnose and treat patients. Often a dentist will see the evidence of the bruxism and can ask if the patient is ever anxious or has struggled with anxiety. This dentist can then encourage their patient to seek the services of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for treatment of the underlying anxiety issues. In the same way, a mental health professional who diagnoses social anxiety should urge their patients to be examined by a dentist for bruxism in order to forestall any further dental problems.
More and more dentists and their patients are looking at oral health as part of overall health. It is important for dentists and patients to know about all aspects that affect health, including diseases and physical and mental health issues.