Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth, it is a habit that affects around 8-10% of the population.

If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism). Mild bruxism may not require treatment; however, it can be serious as prolonged bruxism causes tooth wear and breakage, disorders of the jaw and headache.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose.
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth.
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely.
  • Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness.
  • Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s not a problem with your ear.
  • Dull headache starting in the temples.
  • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
  • Sleep disruption.

See your dentist or doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above or have other concerns about your teeth or jaw. If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of bruxism — be sure to mention it at your child’s next dental appointment.

Causes:
Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea.

  • Awake bruxismmay be due to emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension. Or it may be a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration.
  • Sleep bruxismmay be a sleep-related chewing activity associated with arousals during sleep.

Risk factors:
These factors increase your risk of bruxism:

  • Stress. Increased anxiety or stress can lead to teeth grinding. So can anger and frustration.
  • Age. Bruxism is common in young children, but it usually goes away by adulthood.
  • Personality type. Having a personality type that’s aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can increase your risk of bruxism.
  • Medications and other substances. Bruxism may be an uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications, such as certain antidepressants. Smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, or using recreational drugs may increase the risk of bruxism.
  • Family members with bruxism. Sleep bruxism tends to occur in families. If you have bruxism, other members of your family also may have bruxism or a history of it.
  • Other disorders. Bruxism can be associated with some mental health and medical disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Treatments:
The treatment of bruxism varies depending on its cause:

  • Stress
    If your bruxism is stress-related, your dentist may recommend professional counselling, psychotherapy or other strategies to help you relax. You also may receive a prescription muscle relaxant to temporarily ease the spasm in your jaw. You may also be fitted for a custom-made bite plate. If this does not help, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon or to a dentist who has advanced training in head and neck pain.
  • Dental problems
    If your bruxism is related to tooth problems, your dentist probably will correct tooth alignment. In severe cases, your dentist may need to use onlays or crowns to entirely reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth. The dentist also may make a mouth guard or bite splint that fits your mouth and teeth. This will help prevent further damage to the teeth. In some cases, it may help your teeth and muscles to realign.
  • Medicines
    If you develop bruxism as a side effect of antidepressant medicines, you have a couple of options. Your doctor may switch you to a different drug or give you another medicine to counteract your bruxism.

If you are suffering from bruxism, chat to your dentist about it. Make an appointment online or call 0508 086466.

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