The word bruxism comes from the Greek brychein meaning to grind or gnash the opposing rows of upper and lower molar teeth.
People can clench and grind without being aware of it during both the day and night, although sleep-related bruxism is often the bigger problem because it is harder to control.
It is sometimes done to such an excess that it damages the occlusal surfaces of the teeth, particularly the molar teeth, and may contribute to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
Bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders. Eventually, bruxism shortens and blunts the teeth being ground and may lead to myofascial muscle pain, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and headaches.
In severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints. The jaw clenching that often accompanies bruxism can also be an unconscious neuromuscular daytime activity, which should be treated as well, usually through physical therapy including recognition and stress response reduction.
Some estimates suggest that 15 to 33% of children grind their teeth. This usually happens after they develop their first teeth and again after they develop their permanent teeth. The habit usually stops when their adult teeth are fully formed.
What are the symptoms of Bruxism?A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice. For example, drowsiness may be a symptom while dilated pupils may be a sign.
Clenching the teeth puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw.
Grinding can wear down the teeth. Grinding can also be noisy enough at night to bother sleeping partners.
Other key symptoms include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, headache, sensitivity in the teeth and insomnia.
Earache due in part because the structures of the temporomandibular joint are very close to the ear canal, and because one can feel pain in a different location than its source is also common. This is called referred pain.
What are the causes of BruxismThe cause of bruxism is not completely agreed upon, but daily stress may be the trigger in many people.
It has been estimated that nearly 70% of bruxism occurs as a result of stress or anxiety that is affecting people subconsciously during sleep. Some people actually clench their teeth and never feel symptoms.
Each person is different. Whether or not bruxism causes pain and other problems may be a complicated mix of factors including posture, ability to relax, diet and sleeping habits.
Bruxism can also be related to an abnormal bite. This is when there is a problem with your top and bottom teeth coming together which is called an occlusal discrepancy. Having teeth that are missing or crooked can also prompt you to grind your teeth.
Bruxism can occur as a side effect of taking certain medications. These include some psychotropic drugs as antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Diagnosing BruxismBruxism can sometimes be difficult to diagnose by visual evidence alone, as it is not the only cause of tooth wear. Over-vigorous brushing, abrasives in toothpaste, acidic soft drinks and abrasive foods can also be contributing factors, although each causes characteristic wear patterns that a trained professional can identify.
The most reliable way to diagnose bruxism is through EMG (electromyographic) measurements. These measurements pick up electrical signals from the chewing muscles (masseter and temporalis).
What are the treatment options for Bruxism?The cause of the condition is something you should consider before deciding how to treat bruxism. Stress is one of the main causes of bruxism. In this case, the problem is not the condition itself; the problem is the stress, and it should be treated as such. To treat bruxism caused by stress, one should start a case-specific stress management program and then re-assess the situation. This could involve something as simple as getting enough sleep at night or making sure one is getting regular exercise.
If the condition is brought on by something other than stress, like a misalignment of the jaw or teeth, one should consider a dental solution to treat bruxism. A dentist can fit a mouth guard to wear at night.
One should avoid using generic sports mouth guards as they tend to come out of place and cause more discomfort than they solve. Most users will find that mouth guards improve their situations, but they are not without drawbacks. Over time, a mouth guard can become worn down and lose its effectiveness. Further, when sufferers have tried to stop using the mouth guard, they have generally found that the pain and symptoms return, making it more of a patch up remedy than a permanent solution.
There are many different types of splints. Some fit over the top teeth, some on the bottom. They may be designed to keep your jaw in a more relaxed position or provide some other function. If one type doesn't work, another may.
When bruxism is caused by a misaligned jaw or by crooked and uneven teeth, a dentist or orthodontist may be able to realign the jaw or fit a person for braces to treat the condition.
Avoiding foods and drinks that contain high concentrations of caffeine or alcohol is rocommended as these can enhance grinding. Also, one should avoid any unnecessary chewing. Stay away from things like chewing gum as it embeds clenching and grinding into your muscle memory. To treat bruxism, try to relax jaw muscles with a warm washcloth or a heating pad at least once a day to ease their tension.
Preventing BruxismBasically, stress reduction and anxiety management may reduce bruxism in people prone to the condition.
Written by Sy Kraft (B.A.)