Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism (teeth grinding) is characterized by jaw clenching and grinding that can damage the teeth and cause considerable pain. Although it can be an unconscious daytime habit, it is considered a sleep disorder.

While asleep, a person can apply up to 250 psi of jaw force. Dental work can become cracked or completely broken, and teeth are gradually worn down. The sufferer is often completely unaware of the problem until others notice or symptoms occur.

Bruxism can be caused by emotional issues, certain medications, sleep problems, pain, acid reflux, certain diseases and dental alignment problems. In many cases, the cause is unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Bruxism ?

The symptoms of bruxism (teeth grinding) may include

  • Dull headaches that radiate from the temples
  • Loose and/or cracked teeth and/or dental work
  • Teeth that appear flat and ground down
  • Facial tenderness
  • Sore jaw
  • Aching neck
  • Tight jaw, neck and facial muscles
  • Unexplained injuries to the inner cheek
  • Impressions on the tongue

Bruxism Causes

The consensus of medical and dental opinion is that the major causes of bruxism are stress and anxiety. This is especially true of bruxism that occurs while one is awake. Those in tense and stressful situations will often grind their teeth as a stress relief mechanism.

Another possible cause of bruxism that occurs during sleep is an underlying sleep disorder. Patients with sleep apnea have a high occurrence of bruxism.

Certain medications and substances may also be a cause of sleep bruxism. Some medications used to treat psychiatric conditions include bruxism as a potential side effect. Consuming high levels of caffeine and alcohol may lead to bruxism as well.

At times, bruxism is associated with another condition. Patients with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and some forms of dementia develop bruxism. Bruxism is also associated with ADHD in children.

How is Bruxism Treated?

Treatment for bruxism (teeth grinding) is not always required. Kids often stop on their own, and adult symptoms do not always warrant the use of dental appliances or medication.

Treatment includes

  • Mouth guards
  • Behavioral and/or stress therapy
  • Oral muscle relaxers before bed
  • Botox injections when other treatments are ineffective

Bruxism (teeth grinding) is often discovered during routine dental examinations or when symptoms are brought to the attention of a physician.

Bruxism Prevention

Since stress is the major cause of both types of bruxism, limiting the stress and anxiety in one’s life will play a major role in preventing further occasions of bruxism. Those suffering with bruxism should employ self-help techniques to lower stress. It may be necessary to consult a healthcare professional to help reduce stress and anxiety levels.

For those individuals that are experiencing bruxism as a result of another medical condition, the successful treatment of the underlying condition will almost always resolve the problem with bruxism.

If a patient develops bruxism while taking a medication to treat a psychiatric condition, it may be necessary to change medication. This should only be done in consultation with one’s physician.

Since high levels of caffeine are associated with bruxism, reducing the amount of coffee and caffeinated soda in the diet will help prevent bruxism. Also, limiting the amount of alcohol consumption helps to prevent bruxism as well.