Bruxism Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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The real reason why a lot of people grind their teeth while asleep is still unknown. Teeth grinding or bruxism can occur during the night or day. During the day, the people who manifest it may be aware or not. It is usually triggered by stress and other factors that clenches the jaw muscles.

However, awake bruxism is easier to manage or control compared to sleep or nocturnal bruxism. The person manifesting it is completely unaware that he is grinding his teeth. He is not aware he is putting substantial pressure on the teeth that can cause jaw and neck pain, wear down the teeth, and induce headaches. 

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is an oral parafunctional movement that is characterised by excessive jaw clenching or teeth grinding. About 8 to 31% of the general population in the world are suffering from bruxism. It affects both men and women. Young children also experience a short-term period of teeth grinding episodes, especially during milk teeth and adult teeth formation.

Causes of bruxism

In a study, about 70% of sleep grinders attributed their teeth grinding problem to anxiety and stress.

It is also common among people who consume tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Antidepressants and other prescribed medications for psychological problems are believed to cause it. There is also a significant link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and sleep bruxism. Misaligned teeth and missing teeth can also cause grinding and clenching because of imbalanced bite.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism

Some people with teeth clenching problems do not experience symptoms, so they are unaware that they have it. It is also a reflex action that usually happens at night, so they do not know that they are grinding their teeth.

Telltale signs that you have bruxism:

  • Increased dental problems – Excessive and repetitive grinding can cause chips and cracks in the teeth. The impact of repeated rubbing of teeth with each other breaks crowns off or dislodge filling. Worn out teeth are one of the serious effects of bruxism as it breaks down the protective enamel layer.   
  • Sensitive teeth – Without the protection of the enamel layer, you will experience tooth sensitivity to sweet, cold, and hot foods or beverages.
  • Facial pain and regular headaches – The pain that typically radiates around the head, especially at the sides may be due to teeth grinding. Bruxism also puts excessive strain on the muscles of your top jaw, causing pain around the mouth and cheeks.
  • Loud crunching or creaking noises at night – You may be unaware of the noises you are making, but it can disrupt your partner’s peaceful sleep. If he or she is beginning to complain about it, it is an indication that you have bruxism or sleep apnea. Better consult an expert to find out the real reason for your teeth clenching.
  • Sleeping problems and fatigue – Bruxism can cause intermittent wakefulness during the night. It breaks up the natural sleep cycle that leads to sleepiness or fatigue during the day. You may not remember the rapid awakenings because they last for a few moments only. However, you will be experiencing daytime fatigue that may lessen your productivity level and focus.
  • Temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) disorder – Severe teeth grinding often leads to TMJ or the chronic pain and stiffness in the joints that connect your jawbones. This jaw problem brings severe pain and discomfort when opening the mouth.
  • Over-development of jaw muscles – Bruxism is also linked to the excessive motion of the masseter muscle in the jaw. It results in a wide, square jaw that makes you look fat. Thankfully, you can have a Botox injection to shrink the muscle. This wide jaw treatment is highly recommended for people with bruxism. It will reduce the occurrence of teeth grinding and slim down the jaw.

Treatments for bruxism

Bruxism treatment involves managing the symptom and lessening the chronic teeth grinding to prevent serious damages.

  • Botox injection – This is recommended for severe cases of teeth grinding as it lessens the activity of the facial muscles. To ensure a safe and successful procedure, find the best specialist in your locality. 
  • Medications – Certain refractory conditions and persistent cases may require pain medications to manage the pain and severity of bruxism. It is an option if you are not responding to conventional treatments which include stress-reduction therapies, mouth or jaw exercises, and massage. 
  • Medical and dental treatments – If you are experiencing frequent symptoms of bruxism like jaw pain, teeth deterioration, morning headache, or fatigue, you need to seek the help of your dentist or doctor.
  • Mouthguards (dental splints or night guards) – These mouthpieces serve as a barrier that protects your teeth during the teeth grinding. Some mouth guards are made to relax the masseter muscles all night long. 

Bruxism can be managed effectively. All it takes is your decision to seek help from a health professional who can give you proper bruxism treatment.

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