Bruxism is a condition where you habitually clench or grind your teeth. It can happen during the day, especially during times of stress, or at night. Over time, bruxism can cause severe damage to your teeth and jaws, leading to dental problems, pain and tenderness in the teeth and jaws, and headaches.
What Causes Bruxism?
Both psychological and physiological reasons can trigger bruxism. We have all heard the cliches about people clenching or grinding their teeth due to anger or worry, and stress is certainly a common contributor. However, there are plenty of other possible causes, including physical problems with your bite, perhaps due to an extracted tooth or crooked teeth. If you suffer from sleep apnoea, this can also lead to bruxism.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Even if you grind your teeth while awake, you will not always be aware of it, as it can easily become an unconscious habit. With sleep bruxism, the first clue is often from your partner, as the teeth-grinding can be quite noisy.
If your dentist notices worn enamel on certain teeth or small cracks around your gums, this is an indication of bruxism. There are also some tell-tale signs that you can look out for, including waking up with aching jaws, dental sensitivity to cold or acidic food and drink or difficulty in opening your mouth wide.
Treating Bruxism At The Dentist
There are different treatment options available for managing bruxism. To decide which one is right for you, the dentist will need as full an understanding as possible of the root cause. Where the condition is caused by physical factors, dental or orthodontic work can be highly effective.
In many cases, however, the treatment will be aimed at managing the effects of bruxism and preventing your habit from causing damage. For example, a custom-made mouthguard will not stop you from grinding or clenching your teeth. Still, it will protect your teeth and gums, reducing the likelihood of serious dental problems developing.
Common Questions in Relation to Bruxism
There are several possible reasons, and the best way to find the answer is to sit down with your dentist and talk the matter through. For some people, tooth grinding is a reaction to stress, anger or anxiety. In many cases, however, there is a physical reason, for example, missing teeth or an abnormal bite. Occasionally, bruxism can even be a symptom of some other condition such as sleep apnoea or Parkinson’s disease
The optimum treatment depends on the cause. Sometimes, dental work such as tooth-straightening or fitting a crown or implant can help. In other cases, the best treatment is to have a mouth guard or tooth splints made. These can be worn overnight to prevent your bruxism from damaging your teeth and gums while you are sleeping.
Again, this depends on the cause. If the bruxism is brought about due to stress, then taking measures to help you relax, such as having a hot bath and listening to soothing music will certainly help. It is also a good idea to avoid substances like caffeine, alcohol or sugary snacks in the hour before you go to bed.
Yes, research suggests that about one in three people clench or grind their teeth while awake, and sleep bruxism affects around one in eight. The condition is more common in younger people, and women are slightly more likely to grind their teeth than men. However, bruxism can affect anyone at any time.
Children and young adults often go through a brief period of bruxism and then outgrow it. If a stressful situation in life triggers it, it might also recede when the situation is resolved. When bruxism is severe, it is always advisable to book a consultation with your dentist so that you can get to the bottom of why it is happening and what, if any, treatment is most appropriate.
That depends entirely on what treatment is necessary. If dental work is needed, or you require a mouth guard to be made, your dentist will explain the options open to you and the costs involved during your consultation.