Bruxism Is A Condition In Which You Grind, Gnash Or Clench Your Teeth
If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism).
Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. People who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).
What Causes Bruxism?
Bruxism isn’t completely understood, but it appears to be due to a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors.
Awake bruxism seems tied more to emotions such as stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, or tension. For some, it can be a coping mechanism or habit when they are in deep concentration.
Sleep bruxism seems to be a sleep-related activity associated with arousals during sleep.
Risk Factors for Bruxism
These factors make it more likely you’ll develop bruxism:
- Stress — Increased anxiety or stress can lead to bruxism, as can anger or frustration.
- Age — Bruxism is common in young children, but it usually goes away by adulthood.
- Personality type — Certain personality types, such as “type A personalities,” are more aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive. These all have a higher chance of bruxism.
- Medications and other substances — Certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants, can have a rare effect of causing bruxism. The same can be true of smoking, recreational drug use, and heavy amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
- Genetics — Bruxism tends to run in families.
- Other health issues — Bruxism can be associated with some mental health and medical disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, sleep apnea, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, among others.
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
- Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
- Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear
- Dull headache starting in the temples
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
- Sleep disruption
Why Is Bruxism So Harmful?
Sleep bruxism is the most common form of ongoing teeth grinding. When it continues over a long term this grinding can cause significant harm to your teeth. Teeth may become painful, eroded, and loose. Dental crowns, fillings, porcelain veneers, and implants can all become damaged from the pressures of nightly bruxism.
Beyond the teeth, bruxism also affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. Problems with your TMJ can create chronic jaw pain, popping and clicking sounds when chewing, locking of the jaw, difficulty chewing, and other complications.
Beyond you, it’s likely nightly bruxism is also affecting the person sleeping next to you. Grinding can usually be heard throughout the night.
What Happens If Bruxism Is Left Untreated?
While we all clench and occasionally grind our teeth, chronic bruxism can wreak havoc with your smile. The forces delivered when we clench and grind our teeth are very strong. Over time, these forces will grind down your teeth, and this will then cause your overall bite to become misaligned. Now the odds of suffering the jaw and facial pain of temporomandibular joint disorder rise dramatically.
Bruxism can break individual teeth, especially in chronic cases where the teeth weaken from the nightly stresses. It’s typical to break dental appliances such as bridges or partial dentures.
How Is Bruxism Treated?
The need for treatment can vary. For instance, many of us have temporary stresses enter our lives, and they may cause jaw clenching and tooth grinding. But these often resolve when the stress goes away. But when the signs of bruxism are obvious and your teeth are being degraded, Dr. Bidabadi and our team may use some of these treatments:
- Splints and mouth guards — We custom fit a mouth guard or splint whose job is to keep your teeth separated. This stops the ability of the teeth to meet and grind against each other. These fit over the upper and lower teeth.
- Dental correction — When a person has severe bruxism, their tooth wear has led to sensitivity and it is affecting the bite. Now it’s necessary to place crowns over worn teeth. Inlays and onlays may also be successful.
- Stress management — Coping strategies allow the person to better handle the stress in their life, such as meditation.
- Behavior change — We can show you how your mouth and jaw should be positioned. You can then try and train your jaw to stay in this position.
- Biofeedback — This behavior modification system uses monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you how to control muscle activity in your jaw.
- Medications — In some patients, the best course may be a medication. These mediations work to relax the muscles. Botox, in particular, is showing excellent results. These are possible medications used for bruxism:
- Botox injections. Botox works by blocking nerve messages in the muscles. The brain doesn’t receive the message to contract the muscle, so the muscle stays relaxed. For bruxism, this calms the muscles responsible for clenching and grinding.
- Muscle relaxants. These can calm the muscles that clench your jaw and grind your teeth.
- Anxiety or stress medication. Short-term use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can help you deal with stress or other emotional issues that are causing your bruxism.
Benefits of Therapeutic Botox®
One of the most common benefits of the procedure is the reduction in the frequency and intensity of your jaw clenching. It reduces the damage to your gums, teeth, and jaw joint, and decrease the pain and discomfort in your facial muscles.
By injecting small doses of Therapeutic Botox® directly into the masseter muscle (the large muscle that moves the jaw), the muscle is weakened enough to stop involuntary grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. This significantly relaxes the muscle and reduces the wear and tear on the teeth due to grinding.
Is Botox Safe For Treating Bruxism?
Botox became a legendary brand name due to its FDA approval for aesthetic treatment of frown lines in 2002. What people don’t know is that Botox has also been approved for a variety of non-aesthetic uses. These include:
- Cervical dystonia (involuntary neck muscle contractions)
- Severe hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
- Strabismus (crossed eyes)
- Blepharospasm (involuntary eyelid spasms)
- Neurogenic detrusor overactivity (bladder dysfunction)
- Chronic migraine headaches
- Upper limb spasticity
It is used “off-label” by dentists for treating bruxism and symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Although not directly indicated in FDA approvals, Botox use for these problems is right in line with other muscle relaxing treatments. For bruxism, Botox keeps the muscles responsible for clenching and grinding relaxed, blocking their contractions.
Botox has proven to be safe and effective across its uses. This is evidenced by its injection millions of times all around the world.
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