Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Understanding Teeth Grinding

Do you wake up with a headache and sore jaw or facial muscles? It could possibly be due to bruxism – the medical term for grinding and clenching your teeth.

 

What Causes Bruxism?

Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity (a common habit of the jaw) and is characterized by grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaw muscle. Mild bruxism does not cause any harm, however severe bruxism may give rise to problems of the joint, jaw, teeth and muscle.  In most cases, the cause is due to stress and anxiety. Genetics also plays an important role. People suffering from bruxism sometimes use it as a coping strategy when stressed, anxious or frustrated. Other disorders which cause bruxism are gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and sleep apnea. Bruxism is prevalent in children, more so in kids who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

 

Effects of Bruxism

Grinding teeth during sleep can have short-term or long-term effects.

The short-term effects are reversible if treatment is sought in the early stages. These include:

  1. Muscle pain or spasm. This pain can be limited to the jaw or in severe cases extend up to the shoulders – causing limitation in arm movements.
  2. Headaches which are more frequent
  3. Neck pain and earache
  4. Disrupted sleep
  5. Mild tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation.

Long term effects occur when bruxism is not diagnosed and treated in the early stages. These changes are irreversible. It includes:

  1. Wearing of the tooth enamel which is the protective covering of the teeth. It exposes the underlying dentine leading to sensitivity and a higher risk of developing cavities.
  2. Cracks in the tooth which can leading to tooth fracture.
  3. Mobility which is caused due to loss and damage of the supporting bone and long-standing gum inflammation.
  4. Arthritis of the temporomandibular joint. This causes limited opening of the mouth and patients can hear popping and clicking sound of the joint.
  5. Changes in the bite/occlusion.

 

Treatment of Bruxism

It is important to diagnose and seek treatment in the early stages. Simple treatment is often needed to prevent long term damage. Treating bruxism comprises of:

-Changes in lifestyle which reduce stress

-Physical therapy/exercise

-Wearing a mouth guard. This reduces the impact of the heavy forces of grinding, thus protecting the teeth from fracture and wearing of the enamel.

-Avoiding alcohol and caffeine

-Getting enough sleep

-Your physician or dentist can prescribe medication if needed

Lastly, if you suspect you are suffering from bruxism, it is important to get a dental checkup. Your dentist can help determine the cause and severity of the bruxism and come up with a treatment plan to fit your needs. Schedule your appointment with Dr. Rubab Mirza today and let her help you!