Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity that commonly occurs in most people at some point in their lives. The two main characteristics of this condition are grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. These actions usually occur during a person’s sleeping hours, but occasionally they occur during the day.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders. Chewing is a neuromuscular activity controlled by a subconscious process, but more highly controlled by the brain. During sleep, the subconscious process may become active, while the higher control is inactive (asleep), resulting in bruxism. The most common symptoms are earaches, headaches, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and chronic stress. It can also contribute to the severity of periodontal bone loss, and the rate at which it occurs.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
- Gum recession. Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession and tooth loss. Grinding can damage the soft tissue directly and lead to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria are able to colonize and decay the supporting bone.
- Facial pain. Grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the myofascial region and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
- Occlusal trauma. The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to fractures, which, if left untreated, may require restorative treatment at a later time.
- Arthritis. In the most severe cases, bruxism can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints that allow the jaw to open and close smoothly.
Bruxism Treatment Options
Though there is no known cure for bruxism, there are a variety of devices and services available through our office to help treat bruxism:
- Mouthguards. An acrylic mouthguard can be designed from teeth impressions to minimize the abrasive grinding action during normal sleep. Mouthguards must be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth damage and bone loss.
- Medication changes: Certain medications have been shown to increase or decrease the frequency and severity of bruxism. Medication alterations may be considered in conjunction with your medical physician.
- Physical Therapy: Other specialists, such as a Physical Therapist or an Oral Pathologist may be able to discuss exercise or posture techniques that may be helpful.