Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a condition wherein the affected person clenches or grinds his/her teeth unconsciously or involuntarily, either during sleep or while awake. People with bruxism are often not aware that this habit has developed until damage to the teeth, and other parts of the mouth, has been done. It is speculated that this habit develops due to the psychological effects of daily stress. In fact, the teeth can be so severely damaged that they become quite useless. About 5-20 percent of adults experience nocturnal teeth grinding, which is particularly problematic since it is generally not noticed until the damage has been caused to the teeth, which can take years.
What are the Symptoms of Bruxism?
The surface area of the lower and upper teeth, known as occlusal surface, is usually ground down to such an extent, that it creates an imbalance in the closure between the right and left sides of the mouth. This can lead to structural stress to the roots and tissues of the teeth and periodontal disease.
One of the effects of the teeth grinding in bruxism is tempromandibular joint syndrome, TMJ, wherein the cartilage surrounding the joints of the lower and upper jaws get irritated. This, in turn, can result in pain in the ears and jaw. Headaches due to muscle and joint strain are one of the common symptoms of bruxism.
In a nutshell, some of the symptoms of bruxism are :
- abrasion of the teeth
- damage caused to the tooth enamel
- the inside part of the tooth, the dentin, being exposed
- over-sensitivity of the teeth
- pain in certain areas of the face
- tense muscles of the jaw and face
- jaw dislocation
- indentations on the tongue
- damage caused to the inside part of the cheeks
- a clicking or popping in the temporomandibular joint
Like other sleep disorders, it is the other people that live with the person affected by bruxism who feel the brunt of the disease. This is because the teeth grinding sound can be fairly loud and thus disrupt the sleep of partners or roommates. As a matter of fact, it is usually the partner of the affected person or a member of the family who detects the condition.
Since many of the above symptoms occur in other conditions, it is best to consult a physician or dentist for an accurate diagnosis.
What are the Causes of Bruxism?
It is still not known what exactly causes bruxism, although it is thought that it occurs due to the presence of a number of factors preceding it. These are stress, oral or facial trauma, malfunction of the nervous system, and so on. It seems that certain types of personality traits may also be the root cause of teeth grinding, for example, those who are susceptible to nervous tension which cause frustration, pain, or anger. It also tends to affect people who are very competitive, have less patience, and are aggressive.
What is the Treatment for Bruxism?
The treatment for teeth grinding is based on two objectives: reducing the stress that is causing bruxism, and taking care of the teeth to prevent them from being damaged and acquiring a better smile.
Stress reduction can be achieved by the patient learning relaxation techniques. Activities that calm the body and the mind such as yoga and meditation can help in reducing the psychological stress which seems to exacerbate bruxism. The patient can also learn how to relax the facial muscles and jaws.
Behavioral responses leading to teeth grinding can be changed with the help of biofeedback. People affected with bruxism can learn to control the effects of their involuntary nervous system by learning how to respond properly to the changes of the conditions that affect the body.
A mouth-guard or splints can be worn at night which can help in absorbing the force of the teeth clenching or grinding, thus preventing the teeth from getting damaged.
The treatment for bruxism will be based largely on the affected person’s ability for tolerating the above methods. The trouble is, treatments like mouth-guards and splints usually cause disturbance in sleep, thus exacerbating the stress, which can worsen the condition instead of alleviating it. If you do suffer from teeth grinding, it is best to decide upon the treatment after consulting with your dentist.