What is Bruxism?
Do you grind or clench your teeth, suffer from jaw tension or facial pain?
Did you know you may be inadvertently damaging your teeth by grinding them?
Then this could be ‘Bruxism’, and we are sure most of you have never heard of this clinical term.
Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding or clenching is a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth or jaws excessively. Clenching your teeth and jaws puts tremendous pressure on the muscles, tissues, and structures around your jaw which can lead to temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).
Bruxism occurs in both children and adults and transpires when the upper jaw rubs both sets of teeth together.
If you are suffering from this condition, and if you find yourself clenching your teeth unconsciously when you are awake, it is known as awake bruxism and if you clench or grind your teeth while you are sleeping, it is called sleep bruxism.
If you notice you grind your teeth occasionally, it usually does not cause any harm but when the teeth clenching and grinding occurs frequently on a regular basis, the teeth may encounter severe damage, and also there is a high possibility that other dental or oral health complications may arise.
Bruxism may be caused by stress, anxiety, an abnormal bite, crooked teeth, missing teeth, and other lifestyle factors. It’s important that we seek regular dental care to understand the signs and symptoms of bruxism so that it can be treated at an early stage.
The doctors have not been able to completely determine the causes of bruxism and hence the actual reason is unknown but they suspect it is due to the combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors.
If your bruxism symptoms are mild, you may not need any treatment but if it’s frequent and severe, it can lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth, and various other health problems.
Few of the common causes of bruxism are:
- Stress, anxiety, tension, and depression: Stress or increased level of anxiety, anger, and frustration can lead to teeth grinding.
- Age: Bruxism is quite common in young children and it usually goes away by adulthood.
- Personality type: You may be at an increased risk of bruxism if you have an aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive personality.
- Medications and other substances: At times, it can be an uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications such as certain antidepressants.
- Smoking and drinking: The risk of bruxism may also increase if you smoke tobacco, drink caffeinated beverages such as alcohol or have an addiction to recreational drugs.
- Family history of bruxism: Sleep bruxism is usually a genetic condition. If you have this symptom, there are high chances that bruxism runs in your family and this disorder may exist among the other members of your family as well.
- Other health disorders: Few medical disorders and mental health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also coupled with bruxism.
How to identify if you have bruxism?
Most people are completely unaware, whether they grind their teeth especially in cases where grinding often occurs while you are asleep. However, if you experience a dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up, it is a telltale sign of bruxism. Bruxism during sleep is often a common occurrence and a bigger problem as it may go undetected for a longer period, sometimes years, as you may not even suspect you have it.
Why teeth grinding can be a harmful condition?
- Chronic teeth grinding can result in a loose tooth, tooth fracture, or loss of teeth as it may wear teeth down to stumps.
- It causes both short and long term headaches and other health disorders.
- It can permanently damage one’s teeth as the enamel may get worn away.
- Severe grindings may damage the teeth and it affects your jaws too. If left untreated, it can also cause or worsen temporomandibular joint disorder which can change the appearance of your face.
How to diagnose and care for bruxism?
- Relieve stress as tension and anxiety can worsen the already existing condition. A warm bath or an exercise can help you relax as relaxing will ensure that the teeth grinding is reduced and decrease the risk of developing a chronic case of bruxism.
- Practice good sleeping habits to relax your mind.
- Avoid caffeine or any other stimulating substances in the evening.
- Schedule regular dental visits and dental exams.
When to see a dentist or a dental doctor?
See a dentist if you:
- Are concerned about your teeth or jaw and have any of the symptoms such as increased tooth pain, tooth sensitivity, locked jaw, or tight jaw muscles that won’t open or close completely.
- When tooth wear leads to severe sensitivity or an inability to chew food properly.
- Teeth grinding or clenching which seems loud enough to wake others up from sleep.
- Have damaged, sensitive, or worn-down teeth.
- Feel pain or soreness in the jaw, face, and ears.
- Cannot open or close your jaw completely.
- Have a dull headache starting in your temples.
- Pain that feels more like an earache, though actually it is not related to your ears.
How can a dentist help with bruxism?
Diagnosis and treatment of Bruxism:
- A dentist can help you to stop grinding your teeth by fitting you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
- If you feel that stress is the major cause for you to grind your teeth, ask your dentist how to reduce or deal with your stress and anxiety issues. Starting an exercise routine or a program, attending stress counseling, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are some of the options available to cope up with stress.