Bruxism is the medical term for the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth on a habitual basis. When the grinding or clenching is done during waking hours, the condition is called awake bruxism. When done during sleep, the condition is called sleep bruxism. The term is derived from the Greek word brychein, which means “to gnash the teeth.”
Both forms of bruxism are considered two distinct conditions with different causes. However, the symptoms are usually similar. However, the treatment for the two may differ, depending on the underlying causes and severity.
Awake bruxism happens when patients clench their jaw or grind their teeth during the day. In most cases, this form of bruxism is often tied to emotional issues, such as stress, anger, or anxiety. However, it may also occur when patients are deeply concentrating. This type of bruxism is more likely to be noticed since patients are awake and become aware of the resulting pain. Stress management and therapy for emotional issues are often used to treat this form of bruxism.
Sleep bruxism is a sleep disorder and typically causes more problems because patients are unaware of what is happening. Sleep bruxism is often linked to other sleeping disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea. This form of bruxism is more common in children, teens, and young adults. However, the precise number of sleep bruxism patients is difficult to assess because many people are unaware of the condition.
Because sleep bruxism is most closely tied to dental issues, it is the type we will discuss in this article. We will also focus on the ways that Lakefront Family Dentistry can help patients with teeth grinding and clenching.
Because bruxism involves the tight clenching and grinding of teeth—an act that can exert up to 250 pounds of force—the problems caused can be severe.
Bruxism symptoms include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching that is loud enough to wake up a sleep partner
- Cracked teeth syndrome
- Flat or loose teeth
- Waking up with a dull headache or sore jaw
- Pain in the jaw, neck, or face
- Pain that feels like an earache (although nothing is found to be wrong with a patient’s ear)
- Locked or dislocated jaw
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Popping or clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Damage to the inside of the cheek
- Disrupted sleep
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
Causes and Risk Factors
Bruxism can be caused by a wide range of emotional and physical reasons. In addition, people with certain personality types may be more prone to the condition.
Causes and risk factors include:
- Excessive stress or nervous tension
- Personality types that are aggressive or excessively competitive
- An imbalance in brain neurotransmitters
- Some antidepressants (such as Fluoxetine or Paroxetine)
- Abnormal bites
- Missing or crooked teeth
- Sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea)
- Genetic predisposition
- Cigarette smoking and/or heavy alcohol or caffeine use
The treatment for bruxism will depend on the underlying causes and may involve a mix of lifestyle changes, medical devices (such as a custom nightguard), or other medical interventions (such as Botox therapy).
When stress, anxiety, or anger are contributing factors, the following types of treatment may be appropriate:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Physical therapy
If patients take one of the medications that can contribute to teeth grinding, patients should consult with their healthcare provider to seek an alternative medication. In some cases, a muscle relaxant might be prescribed for patients to use at bedtime.
Lifestyle changes—such as quitting smoking or reducing caffeine and alcohol intake—can also help. Research has indicated people who drink alcohol heavily or smoke are twice as likely to grind their teeth as people who avoid these habits. Reducing caffeine intake can also provide some relief. Heavy caffeine use is defined as drinking more than 6 cups of coffee each day.
When dental issues such as bite problems or missing/crooked teeth are a factor, fixing these problems at the dentist or orthodontist can help. Lakefront Family Dentistry can correct less serious bite problems and crooked teeth with Invisalign. Our office can also address the problem of missing teeth with crowns, veneers, dental bridges, or dental implants.
One of the most effective ways to protect teeth from long-lasting damage due to clenching and grinding is with a custom dental night guard. This device helps to cushion the teeth and jaw from the strong forces of grinding and clenching. Although mouthguards are available over the counter, Dr. Phillipe recommends patients get a custom-fit dental nightguard to provide the best protection and comfort.
Although some dentists purchase night guards in large quantities and perform minor reshaping, Lakefront Family Dentistry makes custom dental night guards for each patient. This helps to ensure proper jaw placement and increased comfort. These custom dental nightguards are made in a special laboratory to help ensure a perfect fit. A custom-fit nightguard reduces the chance of slipping and sliding during the night and helps keep the jaw in a more relaxed position.
Botox for Bruxism
Bruxism is one of the contributing factors to TMJ syndrome. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. In layman’s terms, this means the jaw joint. TMJ syndrome has many of the same symptoms as bruxism and is most common among women between the ages of 20 and 40.
Left untreated, TMJ pain can become unbearable, which can lead to chronic pain and headaches. The condition may even lead to an enlarged jawline. Botox injections help to prevent overuse of the jaw muscles—providing pain relief within 3 to 5 days.
When used with a custom dental night guard and other types of therapy (such as counseling for stress and anxiety), using Botox to treat bruxism has proven to be highly effective. Many patients report complete relief afterward.
Botox has been approved by the FDA and is safe to use. However, just as with other medications and dental treatments, there may be some risks and side effects. Dr. Phillipe or Dr. Hauser will fully explain any potential risks or side effects before Botox therapy begins.
If you or someone you love is experiencing bruxism symptoms, call us at (951) 244-9495 to schedule a consultation or make an appointment on our website.