Bruxism is another term for repetitive clenching and grinding of the teeth. It is typically done unintentionally and during sleep, and most people who grind their teeth are unaware that they are doing it. People affected by bruxism sometimes do not realized that they have this habit until they have damaged their teeth and mouth.
Persistent tooth grinding can cause facial pain, broken or cracked teeth and headaches. In addition, cheek damage, jaw clicking and tense facial muscles can also occur. Symptoms of tooth grinding can also be similar to other medical conditions, and that people who have bruxism should consult their dental professionals. Anxiety disorders, various personality types and nervousness can contribute to bruxism.
It is diagnosed during a dental examination when the teeth present with flat tips. Frequently, after bruxism is diagnosed, the dentist will monitor the condition over time before implementing a treatment plan. Treatment for tooth grinding depends upon a number of factors. These include the age of the patient, medical history and overall general health.
The extent of tooth damage, medication tolerance and the patient’s preference to treatment is also taken into consideration. Tooth grinding is usually effectively treated with modalities such as behavior modification, biofeedback and specially made mouth guards. Mouth guards are worn during sleep and act as shock absorbers to the biting. They also help prevent further tooth damage and help modify the individual’s tooth grinding behavior.
Oral Tissue Damage
When bruxism damages the insides of the cheeks, the patient becomes at higher risk for developing infection and scar tissue. Sometimes, when abrasions to the cheek develop as the result of tooth grinding, antibacterial oral rinses are prescribed to reduce the risk of infection. Goals of the bruxism treatment plan include the reduction of pain, reducing clenching, and the prevention of permanent tooth damage.
To help reduce pain, there are a number of home remedies that the patient can try. These include applying ice to tense jaw muscles, which can also help reduce inflammation. Moist heat is also soothing, and helps improve circulation to sore structures.
Individuals should also avoid eating foods such as hard candies, hard to chew foods such as meats and nuts. Drinking plenty of water and getting adequate amounts of sleep can also help. Furthermore, massaging the muscles of the face, shoulders and neck can help relax the patient and help them better manage their stress.
Medications such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can also help reduce swelling and relieve pain. In addition to mouth guards, special splints have also been shown to be effective in reducing clenching. It is important to note, however, that in certain individuals, the use of mouth splints make their bruxism worse.
Still, other people may notice that their symptoms disappear when the splint is in use, but quickly comes back once they discontinue its use. The splints are designed to keep the jaw relaxed and by preventing clenching altogether.
Permanent Tooth Damage
Although bruxism is not considered dangerous in and of itself, it can lead to permanent tooth damage, chronic ear pain, jaw pain and headaches. Furthermore, insomnia, depression and sometimes, eating disorders can also arise as the result of tooth grinding. It can also disrupt the sleep of those sleeping in close proximity to the tooth grinder and cause multiple awakenings.
Bruxism is considered a very common sleep disorder, and may even be associated with allergic reactions. Taking certain drugs such as amphetamines can also contribute to tooth grinding, as can digestive disorders. Severe cases of bruxism can lead to gum recession and even tooth loss. Electromyography studies can help detect electrical signals generated from the muscles responsible for chewing. Electromyography measurements are frequently performed in sleep labs as part of a comprehensive sleep study.