Bruxism is the medical term for unconsciously grinding, gnashing, or clenching your teeth. This can happen while you’re awake, asleep, or both. Bruxism is commonly referred to as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. The majority of people who suffer from bruxism experience it while they sleep, making it difficult to identify before complications develop.
What are the signs of bruxism?
Routine dental exams remain the best way to identify the signs and symptoms of bruxism. Your dentist is trained to notice these, and can help you catch any damage early on before it gets worse. Some of the signs of bruxism your dentist looks for include:
- Tooth enamel that has been worn down, exposing deeper layers of the tooth
- Teeth that are chipped, loose, flattened, or fractured
There are a wide range of other noticeable symptoms that may also indicate bruxism. These include, but are not limited to:
- Soreness or pain in the jaw, face, or neck
- Dull, persistent headache that originates in your temples
- A “locked jaw” that doesn’t open or close completely
- Tight or tired jaw muscles
- Earache-type pain without any actual problem with the ear
- Damage to the interior of your cheek
- Gum recession
Bruxism can also produce a loud grinding noise that is audible enough for others to hear, so you may hear it from your child, partner, or roommate, or they may hear it from you.
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or your family members, be sure to let your dentist know.
What causes bruxism?
There is no clear connection between bruxism and any one cause; rather, it is considered to result from a combination of physical, psychological, or genetic factors. It is most common in young children and typically goes away by adulthood.
Certain factors can put even adults at a higher risk of developing bruxism, such as:
- Prolonged & intense emotions such as stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, concentration, or tension
- Aggressive, hyperactive, or competitive personality types
- Family history of bruxism
- Medications, especially psychiatric medications like antidepressants
- Smoking tobacco, using recreational drugs, and heavy alcohol or caffeinated beverage consumption
- Pre-existing conditions or disorders like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, ADHD, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), or sleep disorders like sleep apnea or night terrors
How is bruxism treated?
Bruxism rarely leads to serious complications and in many cases even subsides on its own by mitigating some of the previously mentioned risk factors.
However, If severe bruxism is left untreated, it can lead to:
- Severe jaw or facial pain
- Damage to teeth, crowns, jaw, restorations, or other dental work
- Tension-type headaches
- Disorders in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) like jaw clicking or cracking or the inability to completely close or open the jaw
- Inability to chew properly
To determine if you have bruxism, your dentist will begin monitoring the condition of your teeth and gums, looking for abnormalities like missing or broken teeth, weakened enamel, or flattened biting surfaces. Your dentist may also perform x-rays to determine the extent of any damage to your teeth. Then, they will work with you to try and identify the possible causes of your bruxism.
Treatment isn’t always necessary; the majority of kids outgrow their bruxism without it and many adults do not have severe enough cases to require it. Bruxism can also often be relieved by addressing the underlying issues that may be causing it, such as stress reduction, anxiety management, and changes in behavior like developing good sleep habits, avoiding stimulating substances in the evening, and practicing relaxation and self-care techniques.
Your dentist may also recommend some ways to preserve your teeth and prevent further damage. Splints and mouthguards can help keep teeth separated, especially while you’re asleep. Grinding mouthguards are less flexible than sports mouthguards and help to better protect the teeth, jaw joint, and muscles from the constant pressure of grinding or clenching.
Severe bruxism may require more in-depth solutions such as dental correction, where the chewing surfaces of the teeth are reshaped and reinforced by crowns; medication for anxiety or stress, muscle relaxants, or Botox injections; or treatments for sleep-related disorders or medical conditions that may be contributing to the problem.
Treating Bruxism in Oklahoma
The team of dental professionals and specialists at Dental Depot Oklahoma is trained to not only identify and treat the symptoms of bruxism but to also provide the specialized services necessary to restore any damage caused by bruxism. If you suspect you or anyone in your family is suffering from bruxism, request an appointment here. We’ll help you find the Oklahoma location nearest you where you’ll receive the caring, compassionate, and attentive care you deserve for your bruxism. Don’t wait to protect your dental health!