What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition characterized by the grinding, gnashing, or clenching of the teeth. Some grind or clench their teeth at daytime or when awake, while others suffer from nocturnal or sleep bruxism or the grinding of teeth during sleep.
Sleep bruxism is a sleep-related movement disorder that may occur along with other sleeping disorders like snoring and sleep apnea.
What causes Bruxism?
A variety of reasons can cause bruxism that can be a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors (although doctors have yet to determine what causes the condition completely).
The clenching or grinding of teeth is thought to be stress or anxiety-related due to sad or painful events, or joyous events, as well. It can also be a body reaction due to teeth not lined up correctly.
Bruxism can also be a symptom of certain diseases of the nerves and muscles in the face like Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease or a side effect of medications such as antidepressants or phenothiazine.
Other causes of bruxism are a hyperactive, competitive or aggressive personality type, stomach acid reflux into the esophagus, reaction to pain from teething (for children), aberrant alignment of lower and upper teeth also known as malocclusion, a focusing habit or coping strategy.
The case of bruxism may be mild and not require treatment. It can also be frequent and severe that can result in jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth, breaking of dental fillings, wearing away of the outer layer of the enamel, exposed dentin and tooth sensitivity.
What are the signs and symptoms of Bruxism?
Because bruxism sometimes happens during sleep, signs, and symptoms may have been left out and unnoticed. Signs and symptoms of bruxism are:
- Grinding and clenching of teeth which are loud enough to wake others up
- Flattened, fractured, chipped or loose teeth
- The worn enamel of tooth which exposes the inner layers of the tooth
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Tired or tight jaw muscles or locked jaw
- Soreness of the jaw, face, and neck
- Pains like an earache
- Headaches starting from the temples
- Disrupted sleep
If any of the signs and symptoms happen to you, it is best to see a dentist or doctor for a thorough checkup and understanding of the condition. Bruxism is common among children and usually goes away by adulthood. However, a consultation with a dentist or doctor must also be done for assurance.
How can Bruxism be prevented or treated?
Dental and Medical Approaches
Dental approaches, therapies, and medication are available to prevent the further tooth damage and relieve jaw pain and discomfort brought by the clenching and grinding of teeth. Splints and mouth guards may be used to keep teeth separated to avoid damage caused by bruxism.
Splints and mouth guards are made of hard acrylic or soft material and fit over the upper or lower teeth. A dental correction may also be done to reshape the chewing surfaces of the teeth or use crowns to repair damage when tooth wear has resulted in sensitivity or the inability to chew.
If stress or anxiety cause bruxism, stress or anxiety management may also help in relieving it. Learn relaxation strategies like meditation or get advice from a licensed therapist or counselor for help.
Addressing sleep-related disorders may also be useful in reducing bruxism. Changing medications, if the clenching and grinding of teeth are due to side effects from these, may help or by treating medical conditions that may cause bruxism.
It is important to identify the cause of bruxism to address it properly.
There are also some home remedies or self-care tips that you can use to prevent or treat bruxism.
- Take a warm bath, listen to your favorite music or do regular exercises and activities that can help you alleviate stress.
- Practice good sleeping habits.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol consumption, drinking caffeinated beverages especially at night as these may aggravate bruxism.
- For children, give them stretching and massaging exercises to loosen up muscles.
- Drink water as dehydration is associated with teeth grinding.
- Schedule regular dental exams to identify dental conditions. The dentist can detect signs of bruxism in the jaw and mouth with regular exams and dental visits.