What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a term used to describe teeth grinding or clenching in your sleep.
Most people suffer from bruxism and don’t know it, since they are unaware of doing it in their sleep. It’s a phenomenon that many are completely unaware of and the damage it can inflict on your teeth.
Although we all occasionally grind or clench our teeth, people who suffer from bruxism do it to the point where it starts to cause severe attrition (wear and damage) to their teeth, and may cause other medical problems.
This condition can manifest in a couple of ways:
- Bruxism: This involves grinding jaw movements from side to side or from front to back, and usually occurs during sleep.
- Clenching: This refers to biting hard, either voluntarily or involuntarily, with more force than normal. It can happen during the day as well.
What is the cause of bruxism/teeth grinding?
Bruxism is a complicated condition and potential factors are many. However, current medical research recognizes the following contributory factors:
- Anxiety and stress: Grinding or clenching worsen as stress levels increase
- Psychosocial issues: Certain medications such as antidepressants, ecstasy, etc.
- Smoking: Smokers are five times more likely to experience bruxism
- High alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Sleep disorders / sleep apnea
- Conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease
How do I know if I have bruxism?
Many suffer from sleep bruxism and don’t know until complications develop. Hence, understanding the symptoms is the first step in recognizing it. The list is more diverse than you may think, but some of the signs and symptoms are listed below:
- Damaged, chipped, or cracked/fractured teeth
- Broken fillings, crowns, or other dental prostheses
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Loose or mobile teeth
- Jaw pain around the ears
- Headache, especially in the temple area (above the ear)
- Jaw tightness
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Earache and/or ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Sleep apnea, which may contribute clenching/grinding but primarily refers to difficulty breathing
- Wearing down of teeth/enamel, which exposes the underlying dentin
A complete evaluation with Dr. Nodesh is required to evaluate all signs and symptoms and for appropriate diagnosis.
What is the treatment for bruxism/grinding?
Treatment for bruxism primarily focuses on managing the cause, though that can sometimes be very difficult if it involves a related medical condition.
Most often, a prosthodontist will maintain health of teeth and jaw by professionally fabricating a mouthguard that can last for several years. This helps to protect the teeth and reduce pain in the jaw.
Although it’s vital to wear your nightguard faithfully if you grind your teeth at night, you can also follow a few self-care tips to help to prevent the grinding from worsening.
- Reduce tension and stress. Whether you take a warm bath before bed, listen to soothing music, or exercise, stress-relieving activities can help alleviate stress and tension.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine. In some patients, alcohol and caffeine increases teeth-grinding tendencies.
- Focus on relaxing jaw muscles. Make a conscious effort to keep your jaw relaxed. A warm washcloth against your cheek, sticking your tongue between your teeth, and avoiding chewing pencils, pens, and gum are all ways to train the muscles of your jaw to stay relaxed. Remember: lips together, teeth apart!
What to expect from a customized mouthguard?
A mouthguard, sometimes called a nightguard, is made by a prosthodontist to fit patients mouth precisely to create a gap between upper and lower teeth. The bite is modified to help balance and maintain position of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). The mouthguard/nightguard is not a cure, but simply helps to protect the teeth, relax the muscles, and reduce pressure on the TMJ.
For some patients, additional medication with jaw exercise may be needed.