Bruxism (Habitual Teeth Grinding)

Local Tucson dentist, Dr. Jay Lopez will look for signs and symptoms of bruxism (habitual teeth grinding) at the time you receive a comprehensive oral examination. If you are in the Tucson area and would like to see a dentist with expertise in bruxism and symptoms of jaw joint problems (clinically called “Temporomandibular Joint Disorder” and commonly referred to as “TMD”), Dr. Jay Lopez invites you to schedule an appointment.

If you answer yes to the following questions, you will benefit from proper diagnosis and treatment for bruxism. Have you ever been told you grind your teeth at night? Are your jaw muscles chronically or sporadically tense and your jaw and facial muscles tender? Do you grind your teeth or clench them tight together under times of stress?

Bruxing and clenching can occur unconsciously during the day and while you are asleep at night. During the day, it is most likely to occur during times of stress. At night, most people brux (or grind their teeth) for at least a few minutes on and off during sleep without their knowledge. The Kois Center (the evidence-based postdoctoral teaching center for dentists where Dr. Lopez is an instructor) reports up to 8% of all adults and children are affected.

The Damage Bruxism Can Do

Left untreated, habitual teeth grinding applies enough force to damage the jaw joints and teeth. Bruxism:

  • Wears down teeth
  • Cracks teeth
  • Irritates the nerves of teeth
  • Inflames ligament tissue surrounding tooth roots
  • Can loosen teeth
  • Can displace the condyles of the lower jaw, wearing away bone and inflaming the muscles, tendons and ligaments

Risk Factors for Bruxism

Risk factors that are commonly associated with bruxism are:

  • Untreated bite problems
  • Airway problems known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications
  • Certain neurologic disorders

It may surprise you to know that malocclusion—the condition that occurs when teeth do not harmoniously come together when you bite and chew, can trigger the unconscious habit of teeth grinding. Correcting your occlusion (bite) through orthodontics, modifying the tops of your teeth slightly, and/or wearing a therapeutic intra-oral orthotic appliance (sometimes called a bite splint) are some of the treatment options that may be discussed, depending on your individual oral health circumstances.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be treated with appliance therapy to open your airway and hold your lower jaw in an ideal position that opens your airway and prevents grinding. If you snore, this may be the first clue that your airway is collapsing during sleep. Not only is OSA commonly diagnosed in association with bruxism, but it also carries many health risks of its own, including stress on the heart and other organs of your body due to low oxygen. Dr. Lopez can advise you about medical diagnosis of airway obstruction and the types of treatment available. A relatively new field in dentistry is Sleep Dental Medicine. Much research has been conducted, and adjustable oral appliance therapy has been proven highly effective in treating low to moderate obstructive sleep apnea as an alternative to using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

Diagnosing Bruxism

Dr. Jay Lopez has advanced training and years of expertise in diagnosing and treating bruxism and TMD. When he examines your teeth, he may see excessive tooth wear on the occlusal surfaces and fractures in your enamel and dental restorations. Tooth cusps will gradually wear down as you brux. The actual patterns of wear on your teeth inform Dr. Lopez greatly. As Dr. Lopez palpates your jaw, neck, and facial muscles, he will feel tension in certain muscles and you will be able to report points of tenderness. When signs of bruxism are present, Dr. Lopez will evaluate your bite and the forces on individual teeth. This information is valuable when it comes to aligning, reshaping and restoring teeth to create a balanced bite that eliminates the harmful forces of grinding.

The following symptoms of bruxism are ample reason to schedule time with Dr. Jay Lopez for expert diagnosis and treatment.

  • Tooth wear
  • Fractures of the teeth and fillings
  • Grinding noise noticed by a sleeping partner
  • Jaw and facial muscle tension, pain and fatigue
  • Locking, cracking, and clicking of the jaws
  • Headaches
  • Tooth mobility
  • Sensitive teeth

Treatment of Bruxism

After diagnosis of bruxism, Dr. Lopez will recommend you wear a protective intra-oral orthotic appliance while you sleep. This will be custom fit and designed to protect your teeth, jaw joints, and musculature from grinding forces and injury. If you have TMD, the orthotic will alleviate discomfort by optimally positioning the lower jaw and keeping muscles associated with jaw movement relaxed. Once this therapeutic intervention is in place, Dr. Lopez may recommend additional treatment to correct your bite and address other risk factors.

Note: A custom fitted and designed intra-oral orthotic appliance from Jay Lopez, D.D.S. will be far superior to any over-the-counter night guard you may be tempted to buy. Fabricated from a mold of your teeth and additional data collected, it will be designed to optimally position your jaw to prevent bruxism, protect your teeth, and alleviate jaw joint and muscle strain while you sleep.

What Can You Do to Reduce Risk Factors?

To alleviate discomfort and better preserve your teeth (including your dental restorations), jaw joints and health, you can intentionally reduce the risks of bruxism by doing the following:

  • Seek treatment for malocclusion (an unbalanced bite).
  • Seek treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and other potential airway problems.
  • Manage stress.
  • Reduce body weight if you are overweight.
  • Wear a custom-made night guard while you sleep (intra-oral orthotic appliance).

We welcome new patients to our health-centered dental practice, where Dr. Jay Lopez is passionate about helping you achieve your preferred oral health future, improved over all health, and a beautiful smile. Don’t hesitate to call for an appointment that will get to the root of your oral health problems and restore comfort and health in an environment of personalized care and full disclosure of all the information you crave.

Schedule one-on-one time to discuss your bruxism, bite, or TMJ/TMD concerns with Dr. Jay Lopez. Give our conveniently located Tucson office a call today.


Related PDF information sheets from Jay Lopez, D.D.S.: