Bruxism is a condition characterized by a patient grinding or clenching their teeth. As an unconscious behavior, it can manifest while the patient is either awake or asleep (also known as sleep bruxism).
Bruxism ranges in severity; for many mild cases, treatment may not be required at all. In the most severe cases, bruxism can cause headaches, tooth damage, and more advanced jaw disorders.
Sleep bruxism, in particular, is troublesome as it is difficult for most patients to detect on their own and commonly increase the likelihood of comorbidity with sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders.
Symptoms Of Bruxism
The symptoms of bruxism can range in severity from mild, nearly unnoticeable symptoms to severe symptoms which can cause health problems. Typical signs of bruxism include:
- Waking during sleep or other sleep disruptions
- Damage to cheek tissues from chewing
- Headaches that originate from the temples
- Pain that resembles an earache
- Tooth pain or increased sensitivity
- Tired or sore jaw muscles
- Inability to open or close the jaw completely
- Worn down tooth enamel
- Teeth becoming loose
- Chipping or flattening of teeth
Naturally, the severity of these symptoms depends upon the individual patient and the cause of the bruxism.
Causes Of Bruxism
The causes of bruxism aren’t fully understood by modern medicine. However, research suggests that heightened emotions, certain medications, genetic factors, and other mental health disorders can all contribute to a patient experiencing bruxism.
Stress, anger, anxiety, and frustration can contribute to bruxism in individuals. Similarly, a patient’s personality type or mental/emotional conditions which influence a person’s emotional state such as dementia, night terrors, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have an impact.
Bruxism can be addressed in a few different ways, depending upon the cause and the extent of the damage caused by the condition. The best way to treat bruxism is to address the root cause, thus if you experience bruxism while sleeping it may be appropriate to be referred to a sleep specialist. If your bruxism stems from stress, anxiety, or emotional distress, the assistance of a licensed therapist may be helpful.
However, there are several ways a dentist can help with bruxism (beyond monitoring for symptoms of it during a regular check-up). In the most severe cases, when teeth have been permanently damaged from frequent grinding can be cosmetically reshaped by a skilled dentist. In mild or cases that are detected early, a mouthguard can help prevent permanent damage.
Are you concerned about bruxism, or another jaw related problem like TMJ? Schedule an appointment today to have Dr. Lordo assess your case!