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Slave to the Grind:

Aug 17, 2007
If you wake up in the mornings with a slight tension headache, or find yourself with a clenched jaw during the day, it may be caused by bruxism, which is the medical term for grinding, gnashing or clenching your teeth. Bruxism affects both kids and adults.

Most people who grind their teeth do so in the early part of the night while they are sleeping, while others unconsciously clench their teeth during the day, often when they are feeling anxious or tense.

Signs & Symptoms

If you think you may be a teeth grinder, here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:

* Teeth grinding or clenching loud enough to wake your sleep partner

* Teeth that are worn down, flattened or chipped

* Worn tooth enamel, exposing the inside of your tooth

* Increased tooth sensitivity

* Jaw pain or tightness in your jaw muscles

* Earache (because of violent jaw muscle contractions, not a problem with your ear)

* Dull morning headache

* Chronic facial pain

* Chewed tissue on the inside of your cheek

Some of the psychological problems that may cause teeth grinding are:

* Anxiety, stress or tension

* Suppressed anger or frustration

* Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type

These factors may increase your risk of bruxism:

* Bruxism is common in young children, but usually goes away by age 10

* For adults, it is most common between 20 and 40 years of age

* Genetics

* Three times as many women as men grind their teeth

* Us eof caffeine, nicotine and/or other drugs

Dental Exams

Consult with your dentist to determine whether or not your teeth grinding is a dental condition, such as abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth. Your dentist will check for unusual wear and tear on your teeth, broken dental restorations and tooth sensitivity. He will also inspect the underlying bone and the inside of your cheeks for damage caused by bruxism, and may take a series of X-rays. If you have any of these signs, your dentist will look for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several visits to determine treatment options.

He will also try to determine the cause of your symptoms by asking a series of questions about your stress level, general dental routine, daily medications, and your alcohol and/or caffeine consumption, especially during the evening.
Bruxism may also be a complication of another disorder, such as Huntingtons disease or Parkinsons disease. It can also be an uncommon side effect of some medications, including antidepressants. Talk to your physician if you think your medications could be the cause of your teeth grinding.

Botox: Not Just for Wrinkles Anymore

Botox has recently been the primary cure for wrinkles, but recent studies have shown that Botox can also help people who suffer from teeth grinding.
Botox, or botulinum toxin, is a chemical that is released by bacteria to weaken your muscles so you will not grind your teeth. It reduces the destruction of teeth, gums and the jaw joint, and reduces the discomfort and pain in the face, jaw joint, teeth and chewing muscles. It may also be used to relax painful muscles that limit mouth opening. Botox can help eliminate tension headaches and results are often seen within 24 to 48 hours.

Unfortunately, this is not a cure for teeth grinding. If you are clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth because of a psychological issue, you may need to seek professional help from a psychologist, counselor, or even hypnotist in order to cure the real problem that is causing bruxism.

What You Can Do

There are other ways that you can reduce the symptoms of bruxism:
* Limit your alcohol, tobacco and caffeine intake
* Reduce your stress with meditation, exercise, breathing techniques, or other stress relief techniques
* Make sure to schedule regular dental exams
*Try using a night guard specially made by your dentist to fit your mouth
* Keep your lips closed and your teeth apart (your teeth should only be touching when chewing or swallowing)
*Taking a warm bath before bedtime may relax your jaw muscles
*Think of ways to remind yourself not to clench your jaw during the day
*Ibuprofen can help dull the pain and relax stiff muscles
*Apply a hot, damp washcloth to your jaw
*Massage your jaw muscles
* Limit how hard you chew your food (limit foods such as steak, popcorn, gum, hard rolls, etc.)
Teeth grinding can be mild enough where you may not require any treatment. Its important that you are conscious of when you are grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, because it could eventually lead to jaw disorders, headaches or damage your teeth.
About the Author
Dr. Lycka is one of North America's foremost authorities on cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. You can find out more at http://www.barrylyckamd.com and http://www.restoringyouthonline.com. He is founder of The Ethical Cosmetic Surgery Association (http://www.ecsaonline.com).
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