As an adult you may not think you are capable of developing a nervous or a bad habit because you know better, but it is inevitable that many adults may develop bruxism. Although common, bruxism, or teeth grinding, is often unrecognizable. Many people do not realize they are grinding their teeth until it leads to more serious problems. Bruxism is a technical term for the grinding and clenching of your teeth. Grinding may cause facial pain because bruxers, or people who grind and clench their teeth, unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep. Additionally, bruxers may also bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. Causes and Symptoms While many people tend to grind their teeth occasionally, it doesn't usually cause any problems. However, over a long period of time when bruxism occurs on a regular basis, this can lead to damaged teeth and a wide range of other oral health issues. It is often difficult to know if you have bruxism because most people grind their teeth while they are asleep. There are a number of signs that can indicate if a person is suffering from teeth grinding. Teeth may appear worn down with tips that look flat. Some teeth become so worn that the enamel comes off which then exposes the inside of the tooth causing extreme sensitivity. Many people report pain in their jaw that can produce popping or clicking noises. Additionally, as a result of excessive clenching, a key indicator of bruxism can be indentation on the tongue. Other symptoms include: ? A grinding sound at night ? A dull morning headache ? Occasional swelling on the side of your lower jaw ? Painful jaw joint ? Long-lasting pain in the face ? Damaged teeth, broken dental fillings and injured gums According to the Academy of General Dentistry, if you bite your fingernails when you are stressed, chew on a pencil or clench you jaw during sports competitions, you could be at a greater risk for bruxism. If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is important to visit your dentist to discuss the problem. It is always important to bring attention to an oral issue to prevent further problems. Tips for Prevention There are various ways in which you can help prevent teeth grinding. One way is to watch what you eat. Certain foods have been shown to increase instances of teeth grinding. It is helpful to avoid drinks that contain caffeine like coffee or cola. Research has also shown that grinding behaviors may increase after the consumption of alcohol. Chewing gum on a regular basis can also contribute to bruxism because it conditions your jaw muscles to become more used to clenching. You can help train yourself by simply placing your tongue between your teeth any time you notice a clench. This type of habituation can help you to train your muscles to relax and reduce clenching. Treatment and How Your Dentist Can Help Your dentist automatically checks for physical signs of teeth grinding at every regular check-up and cleaning. If bruxism seems to be present, it may need to be observed over several visits before recommending treatment or starting therapy. The main objective of therapy is to get the bruxer to change their behavior by learning how to rest their tongue, teeth and lips properly. When some people become aware of their problem, simply advising them to rest their tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut may be enough to change their behavior. Your dentist can also create a plastic mouth appliance that is worn at night time to absorb the force of biting. Using this mouth appliance can prevent further damage and help change the patient's behavior. When teeth grinding is caused because of stress, a bruxer may be able to prevent the problem with counseling or strategies that promote relaxation. Exercise and meditation may be good relaxation strategies for a bruxer. Call your dentist if you have symptoms of bruxism, or if you are told that you grind your teeth when you sleep. It is also important to visit your dentist if you break a tooth, lose a filling, or notice your teeth are becoming worse. The earlier bruxism is identified, the better it will be in treating the symptoms. Consult your Rockford dentist for more information on bruxism and how you can further prevent teeth grinding. Dr. Jeffrey Allen is a Rockford cosmetic dentist. Specializing in a wide variety of dental services and treatments, including fillings, dental cleanings and crowns, this experienced dentist in Rockford, IL is equipped to handle any dental need.