Bruxism is defined as the habit of clenching, grinding, and gnashing the teeth, typically during sleep. People who grind their teeth are referred to as “bruxers,” but most people don’t realize they have the disorder.
“About half of adults in the U.S. grind their teeth, usually while sleeping. Although, only 20 percent of them are considered ‘bruxers,’ which means they grind their teeth enough to destroy tooth enamel.”
Men and women over 25 years of age grind their teeth more often than children. Since a child’s jaw and teeth grow quickly, teeth grinding typically isn’t a damaging habit. This is because children who develop minor bruxism usually outgrow it before pain and damage occur. For adults, the problem can be more severe and typically requires treatment because tooth damage will occur over time.
Untreated bruxism can lead to both minor and severe dental issues. For example, common bruxism-related conditions include:
Doctors and dentists are not quite sure what causes bruxism. Teeth grinding may be related to psychological, physical, and hereditary factors such as stress, respiratory infections, allergies, earaches, and certain medications.
Teeth grinding typically occurs while sleeping. Some people also grind their teeth while they are awake. There are two types of bruxism, including:
Some people are more prone to developing bruxism than others. The most common factors that increase a person's risk of developing this condition include:
Common symptoms of bruxism include:
Bruxism mouthguards can help ease the pain and prevent tooth damage.
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Treatment may include:
Mouthguards and splints are both considered occlusal appliances because they help with teeth positioning and jaw alignment, especially while sleeping. They are made of hard acrylic because heavy bruxers will grind right through soft ones. The devices are also custom-made for every patient and are used to protect teeth from grinding, clenching, and gnashing. In addition, mouthguards also relieve jaw pain and discomfort.
Receiving regular dental exams (at least twice a year) can help catch damage caused by bruxism. If a patient’s teeth are cracked, missing, or misaligned, restorative treatment is also necessary. For example, dentures or dental crowns may be recommended by a dentist depending on the severity of bruxism damage.
Medications are a very effective treatment option for bruxism. For example, common medications include muscle relaxants, botox injections, anti-anxiety medications, or antidepressants.
If the cause of bruxism is from stress, anxiety, or other psychological conditions, a doctor may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Behavior therapy and/or biofeedback treatment may also be necessary.
“Bruxism (Teeth Grinding).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Aug. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356100
Ferri, Fred F. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. Elsevier Health Sciences., 2014.
Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-grinding/treatment/.
Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.