Bruxism can ideally be defined as the grinding and clenching of our teeth. People who experience this are often not aware of this. Bruxism has affected almost 30 to 40 million people in the US, both children and adults.
Some people are used to these typical dental behaviors and there are people who grind their teeth even during sleep. This is known as “nocturnal bruxism” or “sleep related bruxism”. Some others might have this involuntary practice of teeth grinding even in the day. Bruxism is often related with anxiety and stress, while some experts believe that bruxism is just a habit and nothing more than that.
Causes of Bruxism
Bruxism can have various causes. It can be caused due to stress but also might be a natural response due to misalignment of teeth. Bruxism can also be a sign of some of the rare neuromuscular diseases that involves the face. In certain rare cases, bruxism can be an after effect of certain medicines used for treating depression, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).
People having chronic bruxism can even experience a breakage in the dental fillings in restored teeth. When the teeth are rubbed together it causes the outer most enamel layers to erode thus, exposing the dentin. This causes tooth sensitivity. Severe bruxism can also be a primary cause of dysfunction of the jaws, unexplained morning headaches and baffling facial pain.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Are you a bruxer? Check if you have been experiencing any of the symptoms noted herein:
- Rhythmic tightening of your jaw muscles.
- Grinding sounds while sleeping that might cause sleep disturbances for the person lying next to you.
- An unexplained headache in the morning.
- Tightening or pain of the jaw muscles during the morning.
- Long lasting facial pain.
- Damaged teeth, breaking of dental fillings, injured gums.
- Pain in the jaw joints.
If you have been experiencing any of the above mentioned dental problems, you should see a dentist immediately. A dentist will be in the best position to determine if you are a teeth grinder and will suggest necessary steps after evaluating you.
Your dentist might ask you some general questions pertaining to your dental health, about stress in your life and if you are under any medication. If you are living with a partner, the dentist might also ask a few questions to him/her. Questions related to your sleeping habits, unusual sounds while sleeping, grinding sounds at night etc., might also be asked.
After that, your dentist will closely observe you, paying attention to the mouth and the jaw regions. During examination, your dentist will also check for any tenderness in the jaw muscles and the joints as well. Your dentist might further look for any other abnormalities like, broken teeth, poor alignment of teeth or missing teeth.
An even detailed examination might be needed if the dentist suspects any dental problems to be the primary cause of your teeth grinding. Additionally, your dentist will also examine your gums and teeth to locate any damage caused by teeth grinding, other than just examining your “bite”. A series of x-rays of the mouth will be needed to determine the intensity of the disease and the method of treatment.
Bruxism Expected Duration
Children are often affected by teeth grinding at any time between 3 to 10 years of age, but this symptom is likely to go away on its own by the age of 13.
Among teens and adults, the duration of teeth grinding depends on the cause. For example, the symptoms of bruxism can last for years if it is caused due to stress and anxiety. However, if the cause of teeth grinding is related to dental problems, it should go away after the teeth has been treated, repaired and realigned. This can be achieved after a few dental sittings.
Teeth Grinding Prevention
Preventing teeth grinding can be quite simple, but is mainly dependent on the cause of the disease. In case of bruxism caused by stress and anxiety, you can opt for professional counseling. You can even try relaxing strategies that will help your cause. It might also help if you can cut down on certain stimulants like caffeine and tobacco.
In case of children as well as adults, tooth damage caused by teeth grinding can be prevented. People having bruxism are ideally asked to wear a bite splint, which is a dental appliance used to prevent teeth grinding and is worn at night. Some people wear a night bite plate. These are the usual methods of preventing bruxism. Wearing one such bite splint can also help in relieving pressure on your jaw joints and facial muscles. In some cases, hot compress on your facial muscles might also act as a pain relief and might soothe muscle tightness and pain caused by teeth grinding.
Teeth Grinding Treatment
The treatment of Bruxism is highly dependent on the cause of the disease and as such it varies:
- Bruxism due to stress: If your case is that of bruxism caused by stress and anxiety, your dentist will recommend either a professional counseling or psychotherapy or biofeedback exercise for treatment. There are some other strategies of relaxation as well for treating bruxism. You may also be given a prescribed muscle relaxant in order to prevent the spasm that occurs in the jaw. If this fails to help you, your dentist might refer an oral dental surgeon for further specialized treatment.
- Dental Problems: If bruxism is caused due to dental problems, you would need a tooth alignment. This will be done by your dentist. In case of severe dental issues, you may also need to wear crowns or onlays to reshape those bitten surfaces of the teeth, entirely. You might also be asked to wear a bite splint or a mouth wear that will be designed by the dentist to fit your teeth and mouth. This will help in preventing further damage of your and it might also help in the realigning of your teeth and jaw muscles.
- Medicines: If the cause of bruxism is an after effect of any medicine, such as antidepressants, you have a few options at hand. You should seek your doctor’s advice and he will surely change your medicine or he might also give you some other medicine to counteract bruxism.