Bruxism, defined as habitual teeth grinding and clenching, is estimated to affect 30-40 million Americans. It impacts some individuals exclusively at night, known as nocturnal bruxism, while others struggle at various times of the day. It is listed in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD) and represents the third most common sleep dysfunction.
How Is Bruxism Identified?
The symptoms of bruxism vary based upon the individual, causes and severity of the involvement. Many individuals who infrequently grind or clench their teeth have no symptoms. Others will only discover their bruxism from their dentist during routine dental care. Sometimes it is a sleep partner that hears you grind at night.
In more severe cases, headaches, a sore jaw and tooth pain upon waking may indicate nighttime grinding. Having these symptoms should prompt a consult with your dental professional. Chronic or extreme grinding may cause teeth to fracture, fillings to loosen and even a loss of teeth. Ensuring proper evaluation by your dentist will ensure proper management to prevent this damage. Unchecked, bruxism may cause Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, tooth loss and change your facial appearance.
Causes of Bruxism:
The etiology of grinding can be simple or complex, depending on the individual. In many, it is a cluster of reasons that trigger a person to grind or clench teeth. Some of the more common causes include:
- Stress or Anxiety
- Subconscious habit
- Malocclusion or improper bite alignment
- Side Effects of Medications such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil
- Alcohol Use
- Amphetamine Use
- Parkinson’s or other Neurological Disease
Establishing a early diagnosis is advantageous, as unchecked continued grinding and clenching has been shown to impact quality of life and can lead to potential tooth, jaw and facial damage. Identifying the reasons for your teeth grinding is only the first step your dentist will take in evaluating this disorder. Confirming the cause of grinding helps to outline the best treatment option.
What Will the Dentist Find in Cases of Chronic Grinding?
Bruxism is a problem dentists see routinely due to its frequency rate. During a dental examination, abnormal tooth wear or tightness in the masseter jaw muscles are early signs. With prolonged tightness of these muscles, a bump may occur on the inner aspect of the mandible or maxillary bones, known as Torus Maxillaris and/or Torus Mandibularis. Gum recession or limited ability to open the mouth may be present. Late symptoms include direct tooth damage such as breakage or mobility of the teeth.
How is Bruxism Treated?
Treatment tends to coordinate with the cause of the grinding. One of the first steps is typically the use of a mouth appliance to protect the teeth. At times, these appliances are utilized exclusively at night; however, daytime grinding and clenching can trigger the need for use during the day.
- Stress or Anxiety: Work with your healthcare specialist to identify the cause of stress or anxiety. Professional counseling or biofeedback are techniques utilized to resolve the triggers.
- Malocclusion: Correction of tooth alignment and bite may require reshaping of the teeth, improvements to alignment and even physical therapy. More severe cases may require orthodontia to correct optimally.
- Medicines: Medicines have been shown to be a trigger. Eliminating or changing these medications will provide a resolution. Medicines are also treatment tools. Anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants and even Botox may be utilized when necessary to treat bruxism.
- Habits: Habitual clenching or grinding tends to respond best to retraining methods such as biofeedback and physical therapy. Tools are utilized to provide alternate focus, distracting from the damaging behaviors. Modifications to alcohol and caffeine use, recreational drug rehabilitation, and cessation of gum chewing will target the exact etiology.
- Sleep Disorder: Sleep apnea is a common concurrent problem. Correction, often via the use of a CPAP machine, has been demonstrated to be a viable treatment option.
If you suspect you grind or clench your teeth, contact 3V Dental Associates today to schedule you consultation with our amazing team. Treatment options are optimal when utilized early.