Bruxism is a condition when you grind (slide your teeth back and forth over each other), clench (tightly hold your top and bottom teeth together) or gnash your teeth. In this condition, one may unconsciously grind their teeth at night or clench their teeth during the day, which is also known as sleep bruxism.
Bruxism is a very mild condition that does not require treatment. However, it can be frequent at times leading to jaw disorders, damaged teeth, headaches and other conditions.
Causes of Bruxism
The cause of bruxism is not completely agreed upon; however certain physical and psychological conditions can cause signs of clenching, gnashing or grinding teeth. They include:
- Stress, tension and anxiety
- Suppressed frustration or anger
- Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
- Aggressive, hyperactive or competitive personality type
- Response to pain as a result of teething or earache in children
- Certain sleep problems
- Complications resulting from disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease
- Rare side effects of certain psychiatric medications, including antidepressants
Symptoms of Bruxism
Signs and symptoms of bruxism include:
- Teeth clenching or grinding; this may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
- Worn down, fractured, chipped or flattened teeth
- Worn tooth enamel, showing off deeper tooth layers
- Tightness in the jaw muscles or jaw pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Earache due to severe jaw muscle contractions
- Tired jaw muscles
- Facial pain
- Indentations on the tongue
- Problem in chewing
Treatment for Bruxism
Treatment is not necessary in most cases. Many kids outgrow bruxism without any special treatment and even adults don’t clench or grind their teeth badly enough to need therapy. In case the problem is severe, treatment options can include some therapies and medications.
Stress management – If teeth grinding is all because of stress, it can be treated with counseling or including strategies that promote relaxation like meditation and exercise. If your child is affected with bruxism, you can help your child by talking about his or her tensions or fears before sleep or to relax with a favorite book or a warm bath.
Dental approaches – Your doctor may suggest a protective dental appliance (splint) or mouth guard to prevent teeth damage.
- Splints – These are made of hard acrylic which fits over the upper and lower teeth.
- Mouth guards – These are softer than splints, less expensive and on prolonged use may displace during bruxism.
Fixing misaligned teeth – This becomes necessary if bruxism is associated with other dental problems. In severe cases, the dentist may use crowns or overlays to reshape the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
Behavioral therapy – Practicing proper mouth and jaw positions can help to change the behavior of bruxism. Rest your tongue upward with your teeth apart and lips closed. This will keep your teeth from grinding and jaw from clenching. The dentist may help you in showing the best position for your mouth and jaw.
Medication is not effective for treating bruxism. Muscle relaxants are suggested by the doctor sometimes. If teeth grinding develops as a side effect of an antidepressant medication, your doctor may prescribe another medication to beat the bruxism. Botox (OnabotulinumtoxinA) injections become necessary for some people who haven’t responded to therapeutical treatments.
Care / Prevention of Bruxism
The following self care steps may prevent the habit of teeth grinding or bruxism:
Beat stress – Exercising, taking a warm bath or listening to music can help you relax and reduce the risk of bruxism habits.
Avoid substances that stimulate bruxism – Avoid drinking tea or coffee before bedtime, and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol during evenings as they may trigger bruxism.
Schedule regular dental exams – Dental exams are best ways to get the condition screened and treated accordingly by the dentist. They become necessary especially when you don’t have a sleep partner.
Talk to your sleep partner – Ask your sleep partner to be aware of the grinding or clenching sounds you make while sleeping. Your partner can then let you know and you can correct them accordingly.