Bruxism – Solutions for Teeth Grinding
Bruxism, or the grinding of teeth, is the act of consciously or unconsciously grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw. Bruxism affects over 40 million Americans. Teeth grinding can happen during the day or night, and is considered both a medical and dental problem since it affects teeth and surrounding structures in the head. Most people grind their teeth while they sleep. Bruxism can affect anyone at any age.
Bruxism can be mild or severe. If it is mild, treatment is usually not prescribed. However, if it is frequent and severe it can lead to other issues such as jaw disorders, headaches, broken teeth and more. Because most people are unaware it is happening, knowing the signs and symptoms is important.
Teeth Grinding Symptoms
Below is a list of the common signs and symptoms of teeth grinding, including:
• Facial pain
• Grinding that is loud enough to wake you
• Increased tooth sensitivity
• Chewed inner cheek tissue
• Teeth wear down, flatten or fracture
• Swollen jaw muscles
• Jaw pain or tightness
• Tooth indents on your tongue
• Anxiety, stress, tension
• Eating disorders
• Complaints from others
• Being overtired
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Medical doctors may tell you Bruxism is due to stress, while dentists may say it’s due to unaligned teeth. Below is a list of possible reasons based on opinions from both professions. Teeth grinding causes include:
• Anxiety, stress or tension
• Changes in sleep cycles
• Malocclusion (unaligned upper and lower teeth)
• Other medical conditions (such as Parkinson’s Disease)
• Side effect from medications
• Drugs (such as Methamphetamine that leads to severely fractured and damaged teeth, “Meth Mouth,” etc.)
• Growth and development of the teeth and jaw (mainly in children)
• Response to pain from an earache (or teething in children)
• Aggressive personality
Many people believe Bruxism is a reflex chewing activity, but usually it is a habit. Generally, reflex activities happen when responding to stimuli, without involvement of subconscious brain activity, but Bruxism is different. While sleeping our subconscious becomes active, while the higher control in our brains is inactive. This results in Bruxism, or teeth grinding.
Children suffer from Bruxism too. Many people believe that children who suffer from Bruxism are stressed out, have had a change in lifestyle (such as a new teachers/schools or parents divorcing) or have other nervous tendencies. However, children also suffer from teeth grinding symptoms because of minor issues such as teeth development or unaligned upper and lower jaws that can be fixed by a dentist. Statistically, most children outgrow teeth grinding habits.
Treatment for Bruxism
Treatments are available for Bruxism. If the problem is minor or severe, treatments can include:
Mouth Guards – You can find these in your local store or you can have one custom made by your dentist. Mouth guards are the least expensive treatment for Bruxism.
Splints – Splints are either made at the dentist office or dental impressions may be sent to a dental lab to be made. They are more expensive than mouth guards, and are made from acrylic to fit over your upper or lower teeth.
Stress Management – If Bruxism is due to stress, recommendations may include seeking professional counseling, or relaxation strategies such as meditation or yoga. For children, you may want to talk with them about their fears before bedtime.
Dental Work – If Bruxism is due to the jaw or teeth being unaligned, your dentist may recommend overlays or crowns. Once the teeth are built back up, it is imperative to wear a night guard to protect against future breakage of the teeth.
Biofeedback – This therapy uses monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you how to control your involuntary body responses. Electrical sensors are attached to your body that correspond with your body’s reactions to stress. Visual cues are used to determine which stresses are causing the Bruxism.
Medication – There are not many medications that are proven to help Bruxism. However some doctors recommend muscle relaxers before bedtime, while others change medication that is causing Bruxism as a side effect (such as antidepressants).
Botox – Though less common than the other treatments, Botox may work for patients who do not respond to other treatment and have severe Bruxism.
If your teeth are worn down, you experience headaches or jaw soreness in the morning, tell your dentist so you can be diagnosed and treated. Don’t live in pain! There is treatment available.
WebMD, Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Science Daily, alifeofsmiles.com.