Bruxism or Teeth Grinding: What are the Possible Causes?

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Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition where an individual gnashes, clenches, or grinds the teeth. People with bruxism may clench their teeth unconsciously while awake (awake bruxism) or grind and clench their teeth while asleep (sleep bruxism).

Grinding teeth in sleep is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. Individuals who grind or clench their teeth during sleep are also more prone to developing other sleeping disorders like snoring and sleep apnea.

Mild grinding of teeth in sleep or while awake may not require bruxism treatment. However, in severe cases, it needs to be treated accordingly as it might lead to headaches, jaw disorders, damaged teeth, and other health issues.

 

Possible Causes

Doctors have not fully determined the causes of bruxism. However, it is believed to be a combination of genetic, psychological, and physical factors.

  • Sleep bruxism – may be attributed to a sleep-related chewing activity linked with arousals during sleep
  • Awake bruxism – may be attributed to certain emotions like tension, stress, anger, frustration, and anxiety. Awake bruxism can also be a habit during deep concentration or a coping strategy

 

Common Symptoms

Prevalent signs and symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Teeth clenching or grinding (sometimes loud enough to wake up one’s sleep partner)
  • Fractured, flattened, loose, or chipped teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel (with deeper layers of the tooth exposed)
  • Increased tooth sensitivity or pain
  • Tight or tired jaw muscles
  • Soreness or pain of the face, neck, or jaw
  • Pain that resembles an earache
  • Sleep disruption
  • Dull headache that originates in the temples

 

Possible Complications

In the majority of cases, bruxism does not have any serious complications. However, severe bruxism may lead to:

  • Damage to the teeth, jaw, crows, or restorations
  • Severe jaw or facial pain
  • Tension-type headaches
  • Disorders in the TMJs (temporomandibular joints)

 

Possible Treatment

In several cases, bruxism treatment is not really necessary. Many kids eventually outgrow bruxism while most adults only suffer from mild bruxism that don’t require treatment. However, in severe cases, certain therapies and dental approaches may be recommended.

 

Dental approaches

For children with bruxism, dentists may recommend ways that will help minimise damage to the teeth. However, while the methods can minimise or prevent teeth wear, they might not be able to stop the condition.

  • Mouth guards and splints – designed to keep the teeth separated, it helps prevent damage caused by grinding and clenching. These are typically made of soft materials or hard acrylic and are fitted over the upper or lower teeth.
  • Dental correction – in cases where bruxism has led to the patient’s inability to chew properly or teeth sensitivity, reshaping the teeth’s chewing surfaces or using crows might be recommended to repair the damage.

 

Other approaches

  • Anxiety or stress management – if the grinding of the teeth is due to stress, strategies that promote relaxation such as meditation might be recommended. If the bruxism is the result of anxiety, help from a counsellor or licensed therapist may be beneficial.
  • Behaviour change – practicing proper jaw and mouth position might also help patients with bruxism. Dentists can show patients the best position for the jaw and mouth.
  • Biofeedback – for patients having a hard time changing their habits, biofeedback might be able to help. Biofeedback is a method that uses monitoring equipment and procedures to teach patients how to control the muscle activity in their jaws.
Dr. Gerald Tan
drgeraldtan@gmail.com


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