What Is Bruxism?

The grinding of the teeth and/or the clenching of the jaws while sleeping is a condition that many people suffer from at some point in their lives. While occasional instances of it happening may do no harm, when the condition becomes chronic or occurs regularly, it can lead to damaging of the teeth and a variety of oral health problems. This condition is known as bruxism.

The Symptoms

  • Among the common symptoms of bruxism are:
  • Facial pain and fatigue, especially around the jaws because of the clenching of muscles
  • A dull, steady headache upon waking up.
  • Damaged teeth. This could be in the form of teeth that are cracked, chipped or show enamel wear.
  • Teeth that are sensitive or loose.

The Results

If bruxism is not detected and diagnosed in time, teeth may become fractured, loose or fall out. The chronic grinding can even wear the teeth down to the stumps. Besides the teeth damage and loss, bruxism can also affect the jaws and the muscles that control them, cause temporomandibular joint disorders which make any movement of the jaws, such as eating or speaking painful and even cause the appearance of the patient’s face to be changed.

The Causes

  • There are two main reasons for bruxism:
  • Stress and anxiety which cause muscles to become tense and results in teeth grinding. Because it typically happens while asleep, the patient is not even aware of doing this.
  • Dental problems like an abnormal bite or missing teeth.

Also Read: Common Dental Problems

The Treatment

  • The first step is to have a dental examination done. Once the condition has been diagnosed, treatment begins by finding out what is causing the teeth grinding.
  • If stress and anxiety are the cause, discovering the root cause of the stress and taking steps to resolve it can stop the grinding. Additionally a relaxing routine before going to sleep such a light yoga practice, a warm bath etc. can also reduce the stress and alleviate the bruxism. In some cases placing a warm cloth over the jaw when going to sleep can cause the muscles to relax.
  • If there are physical reasons for the grinding, wearing a night guard while sleeping may be advised. This is a device that is kept in the mouth while sleeping to cushion the teeth and prevent grinding and clenching. Jaw exercises to make the muscles more relaxed are another option. In some cases, a prescription for a muscle relaxant to make the jaw muscle more relaxed may be prescribed.
  • Once the bruxism has been stopped or controlled, dental work in the form of implants, bridges, crowns, root canals, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed to repair the damage that the grinding has caused.

Ways to Stop/Control Teeth Grinding

  • If bruxism is caused by physical issues, the following may help in controlling the severity of the problem:
  • Reduce to the maximum the consumption foods and drinks such as soft drinks, chocolate, coffee and so on that contain caffeine.
  • Avoid alcohol because grinding tends to increase after consuming hard drinks.
  • Do not use chewing gum as this enables the jaw muscles to become conditioned to the clench and unclenching movement.
Dr Preeti L.Anand

Article by Dr. Preeti L.Anand, MDS., PGCOI
Senior Dental Surgeon & Implantologist
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai