What is Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?
Bruxism (clenching) is a condition in which an individual clenches, grinds, or presses their teeth together. Individuals with bruxism (teeth grinding) may unconsciously clench their teeth while awake, or clench or grind their teeth during sleep.
Sleep bruxism (tooth creaking) is normally considered a sleep-related movement disorder. It has been observed that individuals who clenched or gnashed their teeth during sleep were more likely to have other sleep disorders such as snoring and pauses in breathing, namely sleep apnea.
Mild cases of bruxism may not require any treatment. However, in some individuals, bruxism can be so frequent and severe that it causes jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth, and other problems.
It is important for the oral and dental health of the individual to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism (teeth grinding) and to maintain regular dental care, as it will not be easy for the individual to realize that they have sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) until various complications develop.
What Causes Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?
Medical professionals have not determined exactly what causes bruxism (teeth grinding), but they think it is due to a combination of genetic, physical and psychological factors.
In many cases, waking bruxism (teeth grinding) can be caused by emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension. In addition, it may have developed as a coping strategy or a habit in a process where the individual enters deep concentration.
Sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) may occur as a result of a sleep-related or sleep-related chewing activity.
Various factors increase the risk of developing bruxism (teeth grinding): Stress comes first among these factors. Increased anxiety or stress can cause teeth to grind. This may also be due to anger and frustration. It can be associated with some other mental health and medical disorders such as bruxism (teeth grinding), Parkinson's disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), sleep-related disorders such as epilepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Age is another influencing factor for bruxism (teeth grinding). Bruxism (teeth grinding) is more common in young children, but usually goes away in adulthood.
It has been observed that the risk of bruxism (teeth grinding) is high in individuals with an aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type.
Bruxism (teeth grinding) can be a rare side effect of psychiatric medications such as some antidepressants. Similarly, smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages, consuming alcohol, or using recreational drugs can increase the risk of bruxism (teeth grinding).
Sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) tends to run especially in families. Individuals with bruxism (teeth grinding) are very likely to have a family history of bruxism.
What are the Complications that May Occur with Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?
In most cases, bruxism (teeth grinding) does not cause serious complications. However, severe bruxism (teeth grinding) can cause tooth damage that requires filling or restoration, tension headaches, and severe pain in the jaw or face. In short, disorders in the temporomandibular joints, namely the jaw joints, called TMJ, may cause a clicking sound in the ear during the opening and closing process of the individual's mouth.
What are the Symptoms and Types of Bruxism (teeth grinding)?
Bruxism (teeth grinding) can be divided into two different types: sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) if the individual is asleep, and awake bruxism if the individual is awake.
Bruxism (teeth grinding) has a variety of signs and symptoms caused by pressing the teeth together. Clenching signs and symptoms include
Grinding teeth loud enough to wake the individual's sleep partner
Increasing toothache, including interlocking
Tooth sensitivity, cracked, flattened, loose or chipped teeth
pain in the jaw, neck or face
Enamel that has eroded enough to expose the deeper layers of the tooth
Pain that feels like an earache, even if there is no problem in the ear
Mild headache that starts at the temples
Damage from chewing on the inside of the cheek
There is a locked jaw that does not open or close completely with tired or contracted jaw muscles.
Individuals who have any of the symptoms listed above or have other concerns about the teeth or jaw should consult a dentist or doctor.
Parents who notice that their child has teeth grinding or other signs or symptoms of Bruxism (teeth grinding) should mention it at the child's next dental appointment.
How Is Bruxism (Teeth Clenching) Diagnosed?
Dentists will also check for possible signs of bruxism (clenching) during regular dental examinations. If the dentist encounters any symptoms, he or she will look for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next few visits to see if the process is progressing and to determine if the individual needs treatment.
If the dentist diagnoses bruxism (clenching) in the individual, he or she tries to determine the cause of clenching by asking questions about the individual's general dental health, medications, daily routines and sleep habits.
In the process of diagnosing bruxism (clenching), the dentist checks various items to assess the extent of the condition. These checked items include significant dental abnormalities such as tenderness in the jaw muscles, broken or missing teeth, and traces of damage to the teeth and inner cheeks, and X-rays to look for signs of damage to the underlying jawbone. In this way, a normal dental exam can detect temporomandibular joint disorders, other dental problems, or other health disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain.
How Does Bruxism (Teeth Clenching) Pass?
In many cases, especially in young children, bruxism (clenching) will heal on its own without any treatment, and adults usually do not clenched or grind their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However, in some rare and more severe cases, the underlying cause of bruxism may need to be treated to prevent bruxism.
How Is Bruxism (Teeth Clenching) Treated?
Treatment for severe cases of bruxism (clenching) includes certain dental approaches, therapies, and medications to prevent further tooth damage and relieve jaw pain or discomfort. An individual should talk to their dentist or doctor to find out which option is best for them or their child affected by bruxism (clenching).
Various approaches can help alleviate bruxism (clenching) seen in the individual.
For individuals whose bruxism (clenching) appears to be associated with larger sleep problems, the doctor may recommend a sleep medicine specialist. The sleep medicine professional may order a test, such as a sleep study, to evaluate the individual's teeth grinding events and determine whether the individual has sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
If clenching appears to be related to anxiety or other similar psychological issues, the physician may refer the individual to a licensed therapist or counselor. Stress or anxiety management can help an individual relieve bruxism (clenching). Individuals who clenched their teeth due to stress can avoid the problem by learning strategies that promote relaxation, such as meditation.
When the individual discovers that he has bruxism (clenching), he can change the behavior of clenching and grinding by applying the appropriate and correct mouth and jaw position. The individual can apply to the dentist to learn the most suitable and correct position for his or her mouth.
During the dental approach, the doctor may suggest ways to protect or improve the teeth of the individual or their child. Although these methods can prevent or correct tooth wear, they may not stop bruxism itself:
Splints and mouth guards are designed to keep teeth apart to prevent damage from clenching and grinding. Made of hard acrylic or softer materials, these tools can sit on the upper or lower teeth.
In more severe cases, especially when tooth wear causes tooth sensitivity or an inability to chew properly, the dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of the teeth or correct using crowns to repair the damage.
Individuals who have trouble changing their habits can benefit from biofeedback, a method that uses monitoring procedures and equipment to teach them to control muscle activity in the jaw.
In general, in many cases the use of drugs is not very effective for the treatment of bruxism and further research is needed to determine their effectiveness. However, muscle relaxants are among the examples of drugs that can be used for bruxism (clenching teeth) in more appropriate cases.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend taking a muscle relaxant shortly before bedtime. The doctor may recommend short-term use of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications to help deal with stress or other emotional problems that may cause bruxism (teeth grinding).
If the individual has developed bruxism (clenching) as a side effect of a drug, the doctor may change the dose of the drug or prescribe a different drug. However, the individual should not change the dose of a drug or stop using it without consulting a doctor.
If an underlying medical condition, such as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is identified as the cause of bruxism (clenching), treating that condition may improve bruxism.
Lifestyle Changes And Home Care For Bruxism
Various individual care steps can be taken to prevent or help treat bruxism in the individual. For this, the individual must first take steps to reduce stress. Listening to music during the day, taking a hot bath or exercising before bed can help with relaxation and reduce the risk of developing bruxism.
Avoiding stimulants in the evening may help the individual. Avoiding caffeinated coffee or tea, especially after dinner, and abstaining from alcohol in the evening can stop an individual from clenching their jaws, as bruxism (clenching) can worsen.
The individual should strive to get regular and adequate sleep and ideally go to bed at the same time each night. Good sleep habits gained in this way can help reduce bruxism (teeth clenching).
The individual should talk to the sleep partner, if any. In this way, if there are teeth grinding or clicking sounds while sleeping, it may be possible to report this to the dentist.
The individual should go to regular dental check-ups. Dental exams are the best way to identify bruxism (clenching). The dentist may see signs of bruxism (clenching) in the mouth and jaw during regular visits and examinations.