What is Bruxism?
Are You Grinding Teeth at Night?
Most people clench and grind their teeth every now and then. Occasional jaw clenching and teeth grinding neither cause serious injury or harm, but it could a problem if this happens on a regular basis. That may point out to a condition that can cause teeth damage and other various oral complications.
People grind their teeth for different reasons, but anxiety and stress are major causes in some people. Though, grinding teeth at night can occur during sleep in many people which means the causes of Bruxism may lie somewhere else. Crooked teeth and abnormal bites could be a cause in some cases. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are also usually blamed for this. Keep reading if you are interested in learning more about bruxism symptoms, and how to treat Bruxism.
What is Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) Exactly?
Bruxism is excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Such a clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth causes tooth wear, disorders of the jaw, and major headaches. It presents a parafunctional oral activity. This means it has nothing to do with normal oral functions like eating and talking.
This disorder affects about 8-10 percent of the population in the world. Most people clench and/or grind their teeth from time to time and to a certain degree. Although it mostly occurs in adults, even the children are not spared. They tend to grind their teeth when the first baby teeth come out and later when the permanent teeth emerge. The vast majority of children stop grinding their teeth after these two peak times. Bruxism is most common for grown-ups and it especially affects people between 25 and 45 years of age.
Teeth grinding could be harmful if it happens on a regular basis. Sometimes, chronic grinding results in a loosening and fracturing of teeth. It can even result in the loss of a tooth or a worn down tooth that is reduced to a stump. In these events, crowns, bridges, partial dentures, and implants may be needed.
Aside from severe teeth damages, grinding teeth at night can also harm the jaw by causing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). This activity occurs in two conditions - the first one occurs during sleep, whilst the second type happens during wakefulness. Both types could be accompanied by a dental damage. Still, there are some differences.
Bruxism symptoms tend to be the worst when waking up and improve as the day progresses. These symptoms can become worse over the days. Sleep variant is characterized by unconscious teeth grinding. It features sustained and rhythmic muscle contractions of the jaw.
By contrast, typical symptoms for Bruxism while you are awake are not always present. Awake type comes with the involuntary teeth clenching and jaw bracing. Those motions are in reaction to a certain stimulus. Teeth grinding at night affects both females and males in equal proportions, where as it is prominent in women during the day.
Common Bruxism Symptoms?
Most people are not aware of their habit, as it often occurs while they sleep. By the way, the symptoms of Bruxism could be minimal which additionally makes it hard to reveal. A sore jaw and constant, dull headache when waking up may serve as a sign.
Many people with this condition realize they have it when their bed partner, loved ones, or other people point out some of the symptoms. There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate to this disorder. The most common Bruxism symptoms include:
- An unpleasant, loud grinding noise during sleep
- Excessive tooth wear that makes the occlusal surface flat
- Hypersensitive teeth - severe pain when eating or drinking something cold
- Tooth fractures and failures of dental restorations
- Inflammation of the periodontal teeth ligament. The teeth are sore to bite or even loose
- Coexistent tongue thrusting that creates a specific burning sensation
- Indentations around the outside of the tongue from biting down
- Cheek or lip biting. These parafunctional activities sometimes occur along with teeth grinding
- Increase in the volume of the muscles of mastication - the muscles that allow the jaw to move
- Pain, fatigue, or tenderness of the muscles of mastication
- Tenderness or pain of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ)
- Trismus – the limited mouth opening
- TMJ clicking
- A dull headache that usually occurs in the temples
Bruxism is most commonly detected because the teeth begin to wear and cause pain. It also begins to affect the muscles and joints around the area. If you experience any of these signs, you should talk to your dentist as soon as you can. Your doctor will examine your jaw and mouth for any suspicious sign, but your dentist will be able to help you further in terms of the appropriate treatment.
What are the Causes of Bruxism?
The causes of bruxism are not always clear for people that have it. There is a belief that teeth grinding goes together with dental occlusion. This opinion is widespread in the dental profession today.
Yet, there's no strong evidence that will support this belief. It's generally accepted that there are a few possible causes, including the jaw structure and whether it's aligned properly. It is also debated that this activity is an involuntary or subconscious habit that can arise from stress. Unfortunately, many things about bruxism are not clear yet.
Many believe that this happens due to a combination of genetic and physical factors. The emotions like stress, anxiety, and frustration may trigger awake bruxism. Stress that arises from work pressures or family responsibilities may yield this disorder.
This condition can be typical during the day for people with other involuntary oral habits. These people are prone to bite cheeks and/or nails, chew a pen, or thrust tongue. It may be a coping habit or a way to deal with a deep concentration for some people.
Sleep bruxism is an activity that is often linked to arousals during sleep. Recent research has revealed that some CNS-related mechanisms can cause this condition. Those involve neurotransmitter abnormalities and sleep arousals. Even 86% of "grinding episodes" arise during the periods of sleep arousals.
One study has shown that experimentally induced sleep arousals triggered sleep bruxism. These arousals are characterized by the sudden changes in the depth during sleep. They may also feature an increase in heart rate and a muscular activity like leg or hand movements.
We can divide all risk factors into:
- Psychosocial factors
- Genetic factors
- Medications and other substances
- Occlusal factors
- Other disorders
Psychosocial factors usually include the certain lifestyle factors, sleep disorders, stress, and anxiety. Other psychosocial factors that can lead to bruxism include frustration, anger, and depression. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and young age are co-factors.
It may follow that some sleep disorders such as snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea may contribute (view snore vents). Individuals who grind their teeth oftentimes report other parasomnias. They may experience sleep talking, sleep paralysis, as well as violent behavior during sleep.
This condition often occurs in families, and children whose direct family members have this are more likely to develop it. Bruxism sometimes happens as a side effect of some medications. For example, tricyclic antidepressants and dopamine agonists may cause bruxism. The same goes for some recreational drugs and cocaine. The most common occlusal factors are malocclusion, or a misalignment of teeth and the jaw, and an over erupted wisdom tooth.
There are also a few associations between some disorders and bruxism. Those usually involve psychiatric or neurological disorders. The examples include dementia, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, epilepsy, and GERD.
How to Treat Bruxism?
If you are looking at how to treat bruxism, some common measures include practicing stress management, mandibular devices, Orthodontics, occlusal splints, and certain drugs. Professional stress therapies and jaw relaxation exercises are often helpful. Other options that can stop or reduce the condition refer to lifestyle and behavior changes.
Try to cut down on drinks and foods that contain caffeine such as coffee, colas, and chocolate, and avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. You should also avoid habits like chewing nails, pens, and pencils. Scheduling regular dental checkups is a good preventive measure as the dentist will be able to detect early signs before they become a problem.
Treatment is not necessary for all people, and many children outgrow bruxism symptoms without any treatment. Likewise, many grown-ups don't frequently grind their teeth to the point that it requires a therapy. However, if the problem is severe, you should consider the following options on how to treat bruxism:
- Mouth splints and dental guards
- Dental corrections
- Orthodontic adjustments
- Psychosocial interventions
- Medications (anti-anxiety drugs, beta blockers, dopamine agents, muscle relaxants, etc.)
Stop Grinding Your Teeth at Night Today!
Bruxism isn't a serious disorder itself, but it can lead to many severe health problems if you don't treat it. If you are grinding teeth at night and experience any of the Bruxism symptoms listed above, don’t wait any longer to get them checked out. The causes of bruxism are not always clear so it is important that you visit a dentist or specialist to learn how to treat bruxism, manage it, and prevent its consequences.
If your dentist specializes in TMJ, they will most likely be able to treat you at the clinic or recommend you to what you should do next. Oral devices like a bruxism mouth guard are commonly used by people at home and are worn throughout the night to help prevent clenching. Getting a mouth guard is a good first step towards prevention and are easy to obtain.