What Is Bruxism and What Can I Do About it?

Do you wake up every morning having sore jaws? Have you noticed changes in your bite recently? If yes, then you may have developed the habit of grinding your teeth – a condition called bruxism that affects about 30-40 million individuals in the US.

What is Bruxism?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, bruxism to the involuntary habit of excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth – commonly occurring as a reaction to anger, stress, or fear. In some people, bruxism can also occur without any underlying immediate stressors. 

What are Different Types of Bruxism?

Bruxism can happen both during the daytime or while you’re sleeping. Among the two, day time bruxism is more prevalent and is relatively easier to detect. On the other hand, night-time bruxism is harder to detect – as most people with bruxism are unaware of this habit during sleep. That is what makes sleep bruxism more dangerous. A person who is asleep may not realize how tightly they are clenching their teeth – often biting their teeth with up to 250 pounds of biting force. 

How Do I know if I have Bruxism?

If you have any of the following symptoms, then you might be having bruxism:

  • Rhythmic contractions of the muscles of the jaws – both during the day and night time. 
  • Grinding sound at night – this is often heard by a disturbed partner or a loved one, or anyone who shares a room with you. 
  • Tightness or pain in the muscles of the jaws, especially after waking up in the morning. 
  • Teeth with flat biting surfaces due to excessive grinding.
  • Sensitive teeth due to the loss of the protective dental enamel.
  • Chipped or fractured teeth. 
  • Headaches.
  • Swelling around the affected side(s) of the jaw(s).

What Causes Bruxism?

The exact cause of bruxism is still not clearly know. However, it has been attributed to the following factors:

  • Stress, anger, anxiety, or work pressure. 
  • Malocclusion – a condition where the upper and lower teeth do not come together properly, resulting in grinding of one or more teeth whenever the mouth is opened or closed. 
  • As a symptom of an underlying muscle or nerve disease. 
  • As a side-effect of medication used for the treatment of depression. 
  • A complication of Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease. 

Is Bruxism Dangerous for my Health?

If you or your loved ones feel that you have bruxism, then you should seek expert help immediately. Failure to seek treatment can lead to long-term, serious dental issues such as cracked teeth or fillings, temporomandibular joint disorders, headaches, and inability to chew and digest food properly. Hence, bruxism not only affects your oral health, but it can also have a serious impact on your overall wellbeing. 

How is Bruxism Treated?

Management of bruxism generally involves treating the underlying cause. For individuals who grind their teeth but do not have any symptoms, no treatment may be necessary. However, if your dentist feels that your habit can cause serious damage to your oral health, then he or she will provide symptomatic treatment.

  • Mouthguard – a mouthguard is a removable appliance that is worn over the teeth – to prevent them from wear caused by excessive grinding. Although mouthguards do not treat bruxism, they are extremely helpful in minimizing the deleterious effects of this habit on the teeth and the jaws. 
  • Dental Treatment – if you are bruxism is because of a poor bite, then your dentist will fix the underlying problem – either by restoring the damaged teeth or through orthodontic treatment – depending on the cause of the problem. 
  • Stress Relief – stress or anxiety is one of the most common causes of bruxism. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), improvement of sleep hygiene, and relaxation techniques go a long way in reducing stress and overcoming tooth grinding. Sometimes, medications are also helpful in relieving the symptoms of stress. 
  • Treatment of Underlying Condition – if your dentist feels that your bruxism is because of an underlying medical condition, he may refer you to your physician for further treatment. 

Bruxism, if left untreated, can cause serious damage to your oral health. However, the good news is that it can be easily managed. If you feel that you are involuntarily grinding your teeth, then don’t take this condition lightly. Visit your dentist and seek immediate treatment – before bruxism can cause permanent damage to your teeth.