Patient's Complete Guide to Bruxism

Overview of Bruxism

Bruxism is the unconscious grinding, gnashing, or clenching of the teeth. It can happen regardless of day and night. If it happens at night while asleep it is known as sleep bruxism. In the same way, if you unconsciously grind your teeth while awake, it is called awake bruxism.

A person, who has bruxism, is unaware of it. It is an unconscious forceful activity of the jaws. Awake bruxism is identified earlier than sleep bruxism.

Due to this very reason, sleep bruxism can cause more complications and challenges as it is harder to control.

About 8 to 31 percent of the general population is reported to have bruxism. It can affect adults as well as children.

Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

This unconscious neuromuscular activity is one of the most common sleep disorders. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Overly sensitive teeth
  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Chipped or loose teeth
  • Increased tooth pain
  • Abraded teeth
  • Locking of jaw
  • Dislocation of jaw
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deep layers of the tooth
  • Damage to the inside of the cheek
  • Tongue indentations
  • Wear facets

Causes of Bruxism

The exact cause of bruxism remains unknown but various factors play a role in this condition.

  • Stress: Anger, frustration, nervousness, anxiety can add to the stress and lead to teeth grinding
  • Age: It is common in young children. 3 or 4 out of every 10 kids have bruxism
  • Personality: Aggressive, hurried, and hyperactive individuals have an increased risk of bruxism
  • Alignment of teeth: If the teeth aren’t aligned properly, it may cause unconscious clenching and grinding of teeth
  • Medications: It can be caused due to the side effect of some psychiatric medicines such as antidepressants and antipsychotics
  • Family History: Genetics play a role in bruxism. If someone in the family has bruxism, the chances of the individual having it increase
  • Other disorders: Other mental and medical health problems can cause bruxism as a secondary or tertiary disease. Such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, sleep apnea, and ADHD

 

Risk Factors of Bruxism

Here is the list of some risk factors that contribute to Bruxism.

  • When you have a family history of bruxism.
  • Age is also a common factor and common in young children.
  • Personality type
  • Suffering from stress issues that develop teeth grinding habit
  • When you have other disorders

Health Complications Due to Bruxism

Mild bruxism doesn’t cause that many complications. On the other hand, severe bruxism can lead to:

  • TMJs disorders (temporomandibular joints)
  • Damage to your teeth, crowns, or jaw
  • Severe facial and jaw pain
  • Severe headaches

Prevention

  • Avoid smoking and use alcohol and drugs. The use of these substances worsens bruxism.
  • Practice good oral hygiene and find treatments to avoid teeth grinding.
  • Fix other issues related to your teeth, such as missing teeth.

Diagnosis

Bruxism is diagnosed in the following ways:

Physical Examination

Dentist checks for any signs of changes in teeth and mouth (chipped or cracked tooth, indentations on the cheek). If any anomaly is found, it is observed in the next few visits, to see whether it is progressive or needs treatment.

The dentist will look for:

  • Damage to teeth
  • Dental abnormalities
  • Tenderness in jaw muscles

Finding the Cause

The doctor will ask the patient's history as well as family history to rule it out as the cause of bruxism. 

Any prior medication also comes into account. Stress being a major factor is talked about during the patient's history as well.

The doctor will also ask question basic routine questions to find whether the underlying cause is physiological or psychological

Treatment of Bruxism | When to Consult a Doctor

Treatments vary from cause to cause. There is no definite cure, but treatments are done to relieve the symptoms and minimize the health effect it has.

Dental Procedures

If the dentist finds that the dental approach is the best to tackle bruxism, the following methods can be done:

  • Mouthguards: They are used to stop the teeth from clenching or grinding on each other. It is fitted in your mouth and is made of plastic, hard acrylic, or soft materials. It keeps the teeth separated to avoid further damage as well. You can wear it during the day as well as during the night.
  • Biofeedback: For daytime bruxism, a biofeedback mechanism can be used as well. This involves the measurement of muscle activity of the mouth and jaw. Dentists then know about the steps to be taken using these signals.
  • Dental Correction: Abraded or cracked teeth might need to be shaped again. The damage one is done to the teeth needs to be repaired.

Medical Approach

Although not very effective, medications can be used to treat bruxism.

  • Botox Treatment for Bruxism: Botox injections may be used in patients who don’t respond to other treatments
  • Medications: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications according to the prescribed amount can be given to equalizing the stress and anxiety levels
  • Muscle Relaxants: A muscle relaxant may be prescribed for sleep bruxism, for a short period

Other Associated Disorders

  • Sleep Disorder: Treating sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, may improve sleep bruxism
  • Medications: If bruxism is a side effect of a particular drug, the doctor might change your prescription
  • Medical conditions: If an underlying medical condition is a cause, treating it first will treat bruxism

Other issues to address to tackle bruxism:

  • Stress or anxiety management
  • Behaviour change
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