Are You Grinding Your Teeth in Your Sleep?

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Story Updated: Oct 10, 2012

Other than forgetting to floss, you might be doing something that severely damages your teeth every night: grinding your teeth. And you might not even know it.

Nearly 10 percent of adults and up to one-third of children grind or clench their teeth in their sleep (and sometimes unconsciously during the day too), a condition known as bruxism. In fact, according to the American Dental Association, more than 95 percent of us will grind our teeth at some point in our lives -- but most of us will go undiagnosed.

The Dangers of Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding can lead to poor sleep, headaches, earaches and jaw aches, as well as worn tooth enamel, making teeth highly sensitive or even fracturing them. It can also damage your jaw joints.

What causes this strange behavior? According the American Dental Association, bruxism can result from ongoing stress or an abnormal bite. Other suspects include obstructive sleep apnea, heavy alcohol use, caffeine, smoking and certain antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Paxil.

Get Teeth Grinding Under Control

Most people don't realize that they grind their teeth until their sleep partner tells them (it can be very noisy!) or they visit a dentist who can see the evidence. This is yet another reason that regular visits to your dentist are so essential.

If you suspect you're grinding your teeth at night, visit your dentist ASAP. She can assess the damage, help you figure out the causes and come up with a treatment plan. She might suggest one or more of the following:

· Relaxation exercises: Could psychological stress be a possible cause of teeth grinding? Then meditation, breathing exercises or applying a warm, wet washcloth to the side of your face might help. In more serious cases, counseling or hypnosis might be called for.

· A dental splint or mouth guard: These clear dental appliances are worn on the upper or lower teeth to prevent teeth grinding at night and sometimes during the day. The most effective -- and most comfortable ones -- are those custom-fitted by your dentist. Experts advise against buying mouth guards on the Internet or at a drugstore without your dentist's input.

· Medication: Muscle relaxants and certain non-SSRI antidepressants might also help. If you are taking a SSRI antidepressant, your doctor might suggest decreasing the dosage or changing medications.

· Botox: Yes, the same stuff that can relax wrinkles on your forehead can also relax your jaw and stop you from clenching and grinding. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a double-blind, randomized clinical trial found that bruxism decreased "significantly" in the group that got Botox. The effects last several months.

Have you
ever had any problems with grinding your teeth at night? Talk about it below.

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The New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford is a 242 bed facility located in Chenango County about thirty miles north of Binghamton NY. Situated on a sixty acre site, the Home has spectacular scenic views of rural countryland. We provide state of the art medical, nursing, psychosocial, and rehabilitative services to our residents. We also have several academic affiliations including the Upstate Medical Center College of Medicine/Clinical Campus at Binghamton.

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Dr. Dzwonczyk – Medical Director

Dr. Dzwonczyk Receives Certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Philip J. Dzwonczyk, MD has been certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Dzwonczyk joins more than nineteen hundred fellow physicians to have achieved such certification.

Hospice and palliative medicine is the medical discipline of the broad therapeutic model known as hospice and palliative care. The discipline and model of care are devoted to achieving the best possible quality of life for the patient and family throughout the course of a life-threatening illness through the relief of suffering and the control of symptoms. Hospice and palliative medicine helps the patient and family face the prospect of death assured that comfort will be a priority, values and decisions will be respected, spiritual and psychosocial needs will be addressed, practical support will be available and opportunities will exist for growth and development. Hospice in the United States is an organized program that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients and supportive services to patients, their families, and significant others.

Dr. Dzwonczyk is the medical director of the New York State Veterans Home in Oxford. He recently completed the Harvard Medical School Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice and has worked for many years as an internist and geriatrician practicing in central New York. Dr. Dzwonczyk received his undergraduate degree from the University of Scranton and his doctor of medicine degree from Jefferson Medical College. He trained in internal medicine and psychiatry at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds specialty certificates in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. He has achieved Certified Medical Director status from the American Medical Directors Association and is a Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. Dzwonczyk has directed the medical care of patients at the New York State Veterans Home since 1993 and has been active as a medical educator. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Upstate Medical University and is active as a member of the faculty of the Geriatric Medicine Clerkship of the Clinical Campus in Binghamton. In addition to his interest in palliative care, Dr. Dzwonczyk has an interest in the evaluation and management of cognitive and mood disorders of the elderly.

The American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine was formed in 1995 to establish and measure the level of knowledge, attitudes and skills required for certification of physicians practicing hospice and palliative medicine. Eligibility requirements for certification are significant. In order to be eligible to sit for the certifying examination, applicants must have received prior major specialty certification, practiced at least two years following residency, worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team for at least two years and have directly participated in the active care of at least fifty terminally ill patients in the preceding three years. Alternatively, applicants must have completed specialty fellowship training in palliative medicine. The fellowship training program must be at least one year in length and must meet the established voluntary standards for such a program.

ABHPM conducts its Certification Examination in Hospice and Palliative Medicine annually at multiple sites through the United States. Currently, 1908 physicians have been certified by virtue of meeting certification requirements, including successful completion of this examination. A listing of currently certified physicians may be viewed on the Boards website at www.ABHPM.org.

Information on the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine may be obtained from the website at www.ABHPM.org or by call (301) 439-8001.

Welcome to New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford