What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity which is characterized by moderate to severe wear of the teeth. The grinding and clenching of the teeth are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur either during the day or at night.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders and causes most of its damage during sleeping hours. The clenching and grinding which accompanies bruxism is symptomatic of a malfunctioning chewing reflex.
Earache, depression, headaches, eating disorders and anxiety are amongst the most common symptoms of bruxism. It is often caused by chronic stress, Alzheimer’s disease and/or alcohol abuse.
The photo below and to the left shows some early to moderate wear of the front teeth due to bruxism. The photo below and to the right is an example of a severe bruxism habit.
Why treat Bruxism?
- Gum recession and tooth loss– Bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession and tooth loss. First, because it damages the soft tissue directly, and second, because it leads to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria can colonize and destroy the supporting bone.
- Occlusal trauma– The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to fractured or broken teeth, which may require restorative treatment. Worn areas on the sides of teeth (called abfractions) may also require restorative treatment. The photos to the right are just two examples of abfractions.
- Arthritis– In severe and chronic cases, bruxing can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints (the joints that allow the jaw to open smoothly).
- Myofacial pain– The grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the myofacial region and could cause debilitating headaches.
Treatment options for Bruxism
There is no single cure for bruxism, though a variety of helpful devices and tools are available. Here are some common ways in which bruxism is treated:
- Biteguard- An acrylic bite guard can be designed from tooth impressions to minimize the abrasive action of tooth surfaces during normal sleep. A biteguard should be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth damage, damage to the temporomandibular joint and BiteGuard.jpghelp to stabilize the occlusion.
- Reduce stress- Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, using biofeedback mechanisms, seeing a physical therapist or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are some stress reducing options.
- Avoid or cut back on caffeine- Watch dietary intake of colas, chocolates and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol- Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Avoid chewing on non-food items- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes grinding more likely.
- Avoid clenching or grinding- During the day, avoid clenching and grinding by placing the tongue between the front teeth. This will relax the jaw muscles and prevent clenching and grinding.
- Restorative dentistry- If the teeth become severely worn, there are a variety of dental procedures that can restore a pleasant aesthetic appearance to the smile.