Bruxism can be very wearing!

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Bruxism can be very wearing!

Of all the sleeping habits said to drive a wedge between any cohabiting couple, bruxism is one of the most frequently cited as potential grounds for divorce! Snoring might be louder, but there can be few more distressing experiences than lying awake listening to one’s partner grind his or her teeth into oblivion.

Of course, it is perfectly natural for teeth to wear down over time; this process is known as physiological tooth wear, but it can become a real problem when it reaches a stage which is advanced for the patient´s age and signs and symptoms begin to present; this situation can then be termed pathological tooth wear. The largest clinical study in general dental practice in the UK was performed on 1,007 adults aged 18 to 88 and discovered pathological levels of wear approaching five per cent.

Due to the fact that pathological tooth wear can occur gradually, by the time the patient is finally aware that there is indeed a problem it may be very difficult to treat.

Common signs that significant wear is occurring include sensitivity, painful jaw joints and cosmetic deterioration, as the teeth appear thinner, smaller or more translucent.

The first course of action is to make an appointment with a dentist, who will be able to assess how bad the condition really is and also to estimate the speed at which the wear is progressing.

In order to do this a full dental history and examination is needed as well as records such as photographs, models and X-rays. Old photographs or previous models can help to offer an objective analysis of the rate of wear. In some instances, it may be that only advice and monitoring is required, but in others more immediate intervention is needed to as treatment can become more complicated and costly the longer things are left.

If intervention is not deemed immediately necessary, your dentist may still suggest a mouth guard to wear at night to protect the biting surfaces of the teeth from being ground down. In cases where there are joint problems, a hard splint is even better as it can help re-align the jaw to the correct position prior to further intervention. Any type of mouth splint has also been found to help to convey the seriousness of the situation to the tooth-grinder, as he or she discovers that even the mouth guard is not safe from damage!