Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common condition that occurs in most people at some point in their lives. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are the two characteristics of this condition, and they can occur during the day or at night.
Teeth grinding is a common sleep disorder and causes most of its damage during sleep. Clenching and grinding is caused by a malfunctioning chewing reflex, which should be turned off when sleeping. For those who suffer from teeth grinding the reflex control center in the brain remains active during deep sleep or even naps.
Typically there is lateral grinding of the incisors and canines (the front six upper and lower teeth). This side to side movement strains the temporomandibular joints and the medial pterygoid muscles. Symptoms of bruxism are tooth damage, earache, headaches, and anxiety.
Since bruxism is only one of several potential causes of tooth wear, it is frequently misdiagnosed. A trained professional can tell the difference between tooth damage from grinding, and damage caused by acidic soft drinks, abrasive foods, or overly aggressive brushing.
One tool used for diagnosis is a BiteStrip. It is a small electromyographic device that senses and monitors jaw muscle activity during sleep. This helps determine the frequency and severity of the condition so that the doctor can formulate a treatment plan.
Reasons to treat Bruxism / Teeth Grinding
- Tooth loss and gum recession: Bruxism can directly damage soft tissue in the mouth. It also leads to loose teeth and pockets where bacteria can settle and destroy the supporting bone.
- Teeth fractures: Grinding causes abnormal wear on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth which lead to fractures that may require repair.
- Arthritis: Chronic or severe bruxism can lead to arthritis in the temporomandibular joints (the hinge joint that opens the jaw).
- Myofascial pain: Teeth grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth, which can lead to muscle pain and headaches.
There is no single cure, but there are a variety of helpful tools and devices available:
Mouthguards: A customized acrylic mouthguard will minimize the abrasive action of teeth grinding at night thus helping to prevent tooth damage and damage to the temporomandibular joint.
NTI-tss device: This is a device that covers only the front teeth. Its goal is to prevent grinding of the rear molars by limiting contraction of the temporalis muscle.
Botox: Botox is injected into muscles to relax and weaken them. It weakens the muscle sufficiently to prevent grinding but not enough to limit functions like speaking and chewing.
Other: There are relaxation exercises, stress management techniques and biofeedback solutions to bruxism.
Once bruxism is under control dental procedures such as crowns, crown lengthening, and gum grafts can repair damage and restore a healthy smile.
If you have questions about bruxism, please call or contact our office.