How Dentist’s Help in Treating Bruxism

15 August 2018

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding, and can also include gnashing or clenching your teeth. Although bruxism is common, there are many different reasons you or your child might be grinding. This might seem like a harmless “habit”, however, bruxism can lead to serious damage, tooth pain and even headaches.

Understanding Bruxism

Bruxism is a medical condition in which grinding tends to take place at night and clenching is more common during the day. Despite day clenching, bruxism is considered to be a sleep-related disorder which is often associated with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and snoring.

Milder forms of bruxism cause fewer issues and therefore you might not need treatment. However, when it becomes more severe you can have many issues from jaw pain to damaged teeth and headaches. One of the main challenges with bruxism is that it occurs at night so many people do not even realize they have the condition. As well, although there are many symptoms of bruxism, most people do not relate them to their teeth grinding.

Symptoms of Bruxism

The most common symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Teeth grinding and/or clenching
  • Damaged teeth such as fractures, chips, flattening or loosening
  • A wearing of your tooth enamel
  • Exposure of your inner tooth layers
  • Tooth pain and/or sensitivity
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles
  • Locked jaw or difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • Pain in the jaw, neck and/or face
  • Earache
  • Headaches, especially in the temples
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek
  • Sleep disruption

What Causes Bruxism

Although causes are not necessarily clear, there are a number of factors that can lead to bruxism such as genetics, and physical and psychological reasons. Bruxism during the day is often caused by emotional factors brought on by stress, frustration, tension, anger and anxiety. Often people don’t even realize they are doing it as it is an unconscious attempt to ease tension or in some cases can even help someone to concentrate.

There are some risk factors at play as well including:

  • An increase in stress and anxiety
  • Heightened emotions such as anger and frustration
  • Age, as children tend to have bruxism that leaves by adulthood
  • Personality traits such as aggression, competitiveness or hyperactivity
  • Medications such as antidepressants
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Recreational drugs
  • Family history of bruxism
  • Mental health disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Epilepsy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Complications of Severe Bruxism

If you tend to have a more serious form of bruxism you can suffer from complications that include damage to your teeth and jaw, severe headaches and pain in your teeth, face and jaw. In fact, one of the most common complications is temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJs) which can include difficulty chewing, opening your mouth and clicking sounds when chewing. TMJ can also cause mild to severe pain in the jaw, face, ear and head.

Speaking to your Dentist

Whether you, your partner or child have symptoms of bruxism it is always a good idea to book an appointment to see your dentist. The sooner you can speak to them about your symptoms, the better as they will be able to recommend treatment while also helping you to avoid more serious side effects from bruxism.

Treating Bruxism

When you speak to your dentist, they will have a number of suggestions to help you avoid damage to your teeth and jaw including:

  • Mouth Guards or Mouth Splints: If you have bruxism at night we will usually recommend a mouth guard to help protect your teeth and jaw while you sleep. Your mouth guard will help relieve pressure in your jaw and also provide protection between your top and bottom teeth. This will ensure your grinding does not cause damage to your teeth. Mouthguards are made of rubber, while splints are made of plastic. Both are customized to fit your teeth. Mouthguards are less expensive as splints tend to last longer. You can discuss which one is best for your needs. Splints and mouthguards are also sometimes covered by your insurance provider.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (TENS) and Bite Registration: A TENS unit provides electronic stimulation applied for about 45-60 minutes. It works to exercise the muscles and relax them in order to find the perfect position for your bite at rest. We can then take a bite registration using a fast setting putty to create an orthotic to keep your bite in that position. Unlike the mouthguard, this orthotic device is worn full time until the proper bite is achieved.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: If it is found your bruxism is caused by stress and anxiety cognitive behavioural therapy might also help. This will provide you with coping techniques and help you manage how you react when under stress. You will also be taught relaxation techniques to help improve your sleep. This can include deep breathing techniques, yoga, massage or a warm bath. By releasing stress before you go to bed, you can become a more restful sleeper.
  • Habit-Reversal Techniques: If you are grinding and clenching during the day, you can record events that lead to the grinding. This can help you become aware of the habit and allow you to train yourself to relax your jaw when you are feeling tense.

Bruxism due to Dental Problems

When you speak to your dentist about bruxism they might also identify dental problems that could be causing your issues. These issues can include missing teeth or poor bite. With an examination, they will be able to identify issues and provide treatment that will help you with your bruxism. They will also look at the damage caused by your bruxism and recommend restorative treatments that can help correct damage. This can also help with the appearance of your teeth depending on where the damage has occurred.

If you or a family member has bruxism, call our office today at (905) 842-6030 or contact us here.

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