We live in a stressful world. With the many pressures of daily life, it is no wonder that the number of people who grind or clench their teeth is increasing.
Bruxism refers to an oral parafunctional activity that occurs in most people at some point in their lives and is often associated with stress. Grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur either during the day or at night.
Is bruxism stealing your smile?
Typically, bruxism damage is noticed first in the front of the mouth. The incisors and canines (front 6 upper and lower teeth) of the opposing dental arches grind against each other. The teeth begin to wear on each other, and tooth flattening can be noticed. The side to side grinding action puts undue strain on the muscles and the temporomandibular joint. Stress, anxiety, and headaches are among the most common accompanying symptoms of bruxism.
Bruxism is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Bruxism is not the only cause of tooth wear. Only a trained professional can tell the difference between bruxing wear and wear caused by overly aggressive brushing, acidic drinks, and abrasive foods/objects.
Do you think you grind or clench your teeth? Here’s why you should promptly address the habit.
- Gum Recession and Structure Loss– Bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession and tooth structure loss, with teeth becoming “ground off” and flattened.
- Occlusal Trauma– The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures in the teeth, further leading to restorative treatment like crowns or root canals.
- Myofascial Pain– Besides the short-term facial muscle aches and soreness, the grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This allows the lower jaw to be over-closed and puts the temporomandibular joint under enough stress to result in more serious pain.
- Migraines or headaches – Some individuals experience mild to severe headaches, or even migraines, as a result of the hyperactivity of grinding or clenching.
- Arthritis– In severe and long-term cases, bruxing can eventually lead to arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ).
Treatment Options for Bruxism
While there’s no single “cure” for bruxism, we offer a variety of helpful devices and treatments known to successfully prevent or diminish grinding/clenching and alleviate the effects.
- Nighttime Guard– A custom acrylic mouthguard can be designed from tooth impressions to minimize the abrasive action of tooth-to-tooth damage during normal sleep. These guards, made professionally in our office, are much smaller and more comfortable than a bulky, store-bought guard – increasing the likelihood you’ll actually wear it comfortably as you sleep. Guards should be worn on a long-term basis.
- Botox®– Injected into the muscles to relax them, Botox® is an excellent treatment for bruxism because it weakens the muscles enough to prevent grinding, but not enough to interfere with everyday functions like chewing, talking, or laughing. Botox is especially helpful for alleviating headaches that result from the hyperactivity.
- Combination Treatment – While in some cases only a nighttime guard or only Botox is needed to treat bruxism, it is sometimes necessary to use a combination of these two options. The best option for your individual needs will be discussed with you prior to treatment.
- Other methods – These include relaxation exercises, stress management techniques, and biofeedback mechanisms.
Once bruxism is treated and under control, we have a variety of dental procedures (such as crowns and crown lengthening) that can restore the smile and rebuild any damage.