Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of teeth, or both simultaneously. It often happens during sleep but it can also occur when you are conscious. Most people are unaware of this habit.
Bruxism is correlated with stress, anxiety and poor sleep quality. Driven and motivated personality types are more likely to suffer from bruxism. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has classified sleep bruxism as a type of sleep movement disorder, similar to sleep walking.
Bruxism is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea as well as upper airway resistance syndrome, and is common in patients who breathe through their mouth and snore.
Patients with nocturnal gastric reflux are also at risk. Gastric acid softens the tooth surface and accelerates the rate of tooth wear.
14%-17% of children may grind their teeth. This persists into adulthood in about 8% of cases. 20%-50% of bruxers have a family history of bruxism.
Over time, bruxism wears away the surface of the teeth causing disfigurement of the teeth and the bite. If you have worn teeth, you may be prone to:
The most common method to manage the effects of bruxism is the use of a custom-fitted mouth guard during sleep. The mouth guard helps protect your teeth from being worn down even more and distributes the grinding force over the plastic surface. Patients with severe bruxism may even wear through the mouthguard in a matter of months.
In some instances, orthodontic treatment may help to reduce the harmful effects of bruxism by creating a balanced bite with well aligned teeth ensuring that forces are distributed evenly.
Patients with suspected sleep or airway issues should be assessed urgently by a sleep physician or ENT specialist. At Elite Dental, we have our own in-house ENT surgeon, Dr Kenny Pang, who is a specialist in sleep disorders.
Patients with gastric reflux should also be managed by a GP or gastroenterologist.
Botox injected into the masseter muscles or temporal jaw muscles can help reduce pain from recurrent headaches caused by bruxism. Botox also weakens the muscles so that less tension can be generated which also makes the grinding less severe.
Teeth that have been excessively damaged by grinding can be restored with crowns and/or onlays, to restore the tooth to a healthy state.