At Advanced Dental Care of Anderson, we understand the importance of educating the public on combating bruxism. Bruxism is a medical condition that causes you to clench, grind, or gnash your teeth. This can happen when you’re asleep (sleep bruxism) or unconsciously throughout the day (awake bruxism). Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder that often occurs alongside other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Some people grind and clench their teeth without any symptoms and may not require treatment, but if bruxism is severe and frequent enough, it can lead to headaches, damaged teeth, and even jaw disorders.

Bruxism can be caused by a myriad of issues, such as crooked or missing teeth, an abnormal bite, or anxiety and stress. Some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and amphetamines can cause bruxism as a side effect. People struggling with neurological conditions such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s often experience bruxism. Doctors don’t completely understand what causes it, but it seems to stem from a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors. Because you may have sleep bruxism and not know it until serious complications begin occurring, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and seek regular dental treatment.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Bruxism can cause symptoms in several different parts of your body. Obviously, it causes a great deal of issues for your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may experience flattened, chipped, fractured, or loose teeth. Grinding your teeth can also create wear facets, which are smooth areas on the biting surfaces that are created as you repeatedly rub them together. Bruxism can also result in worn tooth enamel, exposing the underlying dentin and causing increased tooth sensitivity and pain. Abraded teeth can occur in those with bruxism as mechanical actions other than tooth-to-tooth contact or mastication contribute to the progressive loss of hard tooth substances.

Bruxism also puts a great deal of strain on your jaw. If you’ve been suffering from sleep bruxism, you may wake up and find that your jaw is tired or tight. Bruxism can also cause a locked jaw that won’t open or close all the way. A popping or clicking sound can occur in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) of those with bruxism. Constant clenching or grinding of the teeth can result in enlarged jaw muscles and, in severe cases, jaw dislocation.

Other common symptoms of bruxism include dull headaches beginning near your temples, facial pain, tongue indentations, and sleep disruption. Teeth grinding commonly results in earache-like pain, even though there are no issues with your ear. The structures of the TMJ are very close to your ear canal, leading to referred pain in the ear. If you’ve been consistently experiencing any combination of these symptoms, we recommend having your dentist check for signs of bruxism.

Treatments for Bruxism

There are a wide range of treatments for bruxism, depending on the severity of the disorder and how far damaged the teeth and jaw have already become. For those dealing with less severe symptoms and damage, dentists may recommend beginning with behavior modification. Those with bruxism should avoid caffeine and alcohol, as both substances can contribute to grinding. Hard or dense foods such as nuts, steak, or candy should also be avoided as not to contribute to tooth damage.

Dentists also recommend not chewing gum or on pencils and pens, as doing so can embed grinding and clenching into your muscle memory, making you more likely to suffer from bruxism. Awake bruxism can sometimes be relieved through increased awareness and physical therapy exercises that help your muscles and joints get back to normal, but sleep bruxism requires other strategies to treat.

Studies have shown that stress and anxiety can greatly contribute to occurrences of bruxism, so many dentists recommend stress management for those struggling with bruxism. Learning options and strategies to promote relaxation can relieve grinding and clenching behavior. Therapy can teach you many practices to help ease your stress and anxiety which can reduce the occurrence of bruxism. Drinking enough water and getting enough exercise and sleep are also easy ways to relieve stress for those whose bruxism is caused by too much stress.

For those with more severe cases of bruxism, dentists may prescribe splints and mouth guards, medication, or even dental correction. Splints and mouthguards are designed to keep your teeth separated so as to prevent any damage caused by grinding and clenching. They can be made of hard acrylic or softer materials, though the American Academy of Oral Medicine recommends a hard plastic mouthguard that covers all your upper or all your lower teeth. Generic, plastic sports mouthguards are not recommended as they can come out of place.

A well-fitting splint can also minimize the effects of grinding. As with mouthguards, some splints fit over your top teeth and others fit over the bottom ones. Splints may be designed to keep your jaw in a relaxed position, or it may act as a protective barrier so that the splint, rather than the teeth, absorb the damage during grinding. Many people who find relief through mouthguards will stop using them and, upon doing so, find their symptoms return, so this is not known to be a permanent solution.

Contact Advanced Dental Care of Anderson

If you or someone you love is struggling with bruxism, visit our website to learn more about the treatment options at your disposal. At Advanced Dental Care of Anderson, our experienced dental professionals understand that bruxism can be a frustrating and damaging experience to deal with. With regular dental appointments and individualized treatment, you can be on your way to a life free of the symptoms caused by bruxism. Contact us today for an appointment!