Evidence shows that older Americans are at risk for greater oral health problems than other groups because of age and the inability to get to a dentist’s office due to an existing medical condition or lack of transportation.
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People who bite their fingernails when stressed, chew on a pencil if nervous or clench their jaw during sports competitions could be at greater risk for bruxism, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
Bruxism technically refers to the unintentional grinding or clenching of teeth that may cause facial pain. Bruxers – another name for those who suffer from bruxism – may bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep.
"Bruxism is a very common problem, and it can be easily fixed if you see your dentist," says AGD spokesperson Charles Perle, DMD, FAGD. "However, without help, you could cause bigger problems." Over time, bruxers will experience jaw pain, tense muscles, headaches and sensitive teeth. Forceful biting when not eating can also cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.
Reviewed: January 2012
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