Do you have trouble brushing your teeth? How to control it.

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According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists reported that 69 percent of patients who brushed or gritted their teeth during a pandemic jumped. And most of these people probably don’t know they’re doing it. “It’s almost completely unconscious behavior,” said Vicki Conn, president of the dental assembly of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

This condition, called bruxism, can affect up to 200 pounds of teeth. “The biting force of a grinder can be six times higher than a normal chew,” says Ada Cooper, a dentist with the American Dental Association. So it is not surprising that he ate or broke his teeth. Bruxism may be of particular concern to older people whose teeth may be brittle.

In these difficult times, dentists are more likely to see people with gritted teeth and itchy cheeks – bruxism

Bruxism can occur during the day or night. Stress can be a significant factor in times of intense stress or during sleep, and stress hormone levels can still fluctuate after a hard day, Conn says. Habits such as alcohol and tobacco use also increase the likelihood. “Smokers grind twice as many teeth as non-smokers,” Cooper said. Some medications, such as some antidepressants and antipsychotics, also increase the risk.

Conditions affecting the central nervous system, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke, can cause or exacerbate bruxism. It is often accompanied by a disorder of the temporomandibular joints that causes pain around the jaw. Finally, if you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the upper airways close several times during sleep, leading to multiple breathing breaks at night. Manar Abdelrahim, a dentist at the Cleveland Clinic, says it “makes people with OSA grit their teeth in the most insensitive way to compensate and grind their teeth and open their airways”. (If you are told you have an OSA, ask for an assessment of bruxism.)

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A cracked tooth, crown, or filling may be a clear sign that something is wrong, but there are fewer dramatic signs to notice. For example, people with sleep bruxism may wake up with a sore throat or neck, headache, stiff jaw, ringing in the ears, or spots on the edge of the tongue, where the teeth of the tongue are clenched. If you notice any of these, consult your dentist, who will check your teeth for wear, fractures and recessions. But “if the only evidence is wearing your teeth, you may not have active bruxism,” says Conn. Chronic severe heartburn is a common cause of tooth decay in the elderly.

Video recording in a sleep laboratory or electromyography can permanently diagnose sleep bruxism. For the latter, electrodes attached to the skin check for repetitive movements of the jaw muscles.

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Although bruxism is difficult to overcome, the following can help:

  • plastic mouth protector: “Wearing a guard at night is usually the first line of defense,” Abdelrahim says. “The guard puts a gap between the upper and lower teeth to protect them and allows the jaw muscles to rest.” Customized security ($ 324 to $ 788) is usually more effective than an over-the-counter product and is sometimes covered by insurance. It does not give up any habits, but it prevents further tooth decay.
  • Botox: Injections of botulinum toxin into the jaw muscles can reduce the pressure on the teeth.
  • Stress reduction: Relaxing activities (such as yoga and meditation) can help. Thus, awareness of the behavior can be increased. Tip: “If you feel your teeth touching during stress, allow your jaw to open and your teeth to move away from each other,” Cooper said.
  • Physical therapy: A physiotherapist trained to treat bruxism can teach you exercises to stretch, strengthen, and relax the neck and jaw muscles, which can reduce muscle tension and cause contractions and spasms.

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