How to Prevent Bruxism
Bruxism is a condition in which you often clench your teeth together or tapping and grinding them without even realizing it. It can be a symptom of a larger issue, such as stress or anxiety, or it can be a problem all on its own. If you are showing signs and symptoms of bruxism or if your dentist has mentioned that you have excessive tooth wear, it’s important to take steps to prevent further damage to your teeth and jaw.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a common condition that affects millions of people. It is characterized by the unintentional grinding or clenching of the teeth, usually while asleep, and can be caused by some medical conditions, stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues. Identifying the signs and symptoms of bruxism is important, as it can lead to long-term dental problems and even jaw and facial pain.
It’s divided between primary and secondary, depending on the root causes of it. Primary bruxism has two types: awake bruxism and sleep bruxism.
Awake bruxism, also called daytime bruxism, is the chronic involuntarily grinding of teeth while awake and normally during anxious or stressful moments of the day. It’s a very common condition affecting over 22% of the general population. Studies have proved that children aged 3-10 are at greater risk while awake, but it also affects adults, worsens during the day, and can trigger the onset of sleep bruxism at night.
Meanwhile, sleep bruxism, otherwise known as nocturnal bruxism, is a condition that affects 12% of people of all ages. It’s the involuntary grinding and clenching of the teeth at night during sleep, and it is the most common type of bruxism in children and teenagers, typically worse just before waking up in the morning. The diagnosis of sleep bruxism can be difficult, and the prevalence might be underreported in adults, as many don’t know they’re suffering from it because the most notable signs happen while asleep. Some studies show adults may be affected even more often, with 8-31% having the condition.
Asleep bruxism is also the one that can have the most serious consequences on people worldwide, causing a range of issues, from sleep apnea to misaligned teeth. If you are concerned that you may have it, getting the right diagnosis and treatment is important.
Symptoms and Signs of Bruxism
The signs and symptoms of bruxism can vary from person to person, but some of the most common include:
- Sleep partner can hear your teeth grinding and clenching at night. Maybe even woken up by it.
- Tooth enamel is so worn down that it exposes your tooth’s lower layers.
Despite not being an ear issue, there is pain that feels like an earache.
- More sensitive teeth or even pain in them if the condition worsens.
Loose, chipped, cracked, misaligned, or flattened teeth.
- Your jaw muscles might feel tighter or more tired. You could wake up with jaw pain and even a locked jaw in severe bruxism cases.
- Soreness can also extend to the face, with facial muscles just as strained as jaw muscles.
- Headache and temple pain.
- The tooth grinding might lead to accidental but constant chewing on the inside of your cheek, which can cause damage.
It can compound or even result in other sleep disorders.
Causes of Bruxism
Some medical conditions can lead to bruxism, such as malocclusion or misaligned teeth. It can lead to grinding, as the teeth may not fit together properly and can cause discomfort or pain. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause the jaw muscles to become tense, leading to teeth grinding or clenching.
Psychological factors, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration, cause most cases of bruxism in the adult population. People under a lot of stress may find themselves grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw to cope with their emotions.
Certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, are connected to bruxism. An individual’s neurological disorder might be the cause of bruxism and the disruption of jaw or masseter muscle function. Therefore, taking the necessary steps to address underlying neurological issues and any medication side effects that may be linked to bruxism is important.
Medication Side Effects
Certain drugs and medications, from antidepressants to stimulants, can increase muscle tension and stress in the jaw. It is important to speak to a doctor if you are experiencing bruxism while taking any type of medication, as the cause may be related to the medication.
Worth mentioning that recreational drugs, caffeine, and alcohol are stimulants that can disrupt sleep an
Some sleep studies have proposed a link between obstructive sleep apnea and teeth grinding or clenching at night. Patients with sleep bruxism might develop sleep apnea or vice versa, but there isn’t a definitive cause and effect between the common sleep disorders. What is true is that a dentist will likely consider your sleep apnea when prescribing a night guard or occlusal splint as a treatment for sleep bruxism, as they can sometimes worsen obstructive sleep apnea. For those with the condition, occlusal splints or mouth guards that leave the jaw slightly open might be the best solution.
A doctor or dentist can make the diagnosis of sleep bruxism, although the method of diagnosis may vary depending on the type of healthcare provider. The most accurate way to detect sleep bruxism is through polysomnography, which is a sleep study done overnight. Although this procedure is time-consuming and costly, it can be worth it if the patient has a variety of sleep complaints, as it can detect other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
If the signs of bruxism are apparent, such as jaw pain and tooth damage, as well as reports of teeth grinding from a bed partner, a diagnosis can be made without the need for a sleep study. This is especially true in cases of awake bruxism, where the patient is more aware of their clenching or grinding habits.
Home observation tests are not as reliable as polysomnography, but they can also be used to detect teeth grinding.
How to Prevent Bruxism
The best way to prevent bruxism is to identify and address the underlying causes. Several of the factors for sleep bruxism can be prevented once you’re diagnosed or realized you’re one of the world’s millions of patients with sleep bruxism.
Stress and Anxiety Management
As we’ve mentioned, emotional issues like chronic stress and anxiety can result in, or worsen, bruxism. Identifying triggers, such as grinding teeth during anxious moments, and avoiding them can also be helpful. Additionally, following good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist regularly, can help reduce the risk of bruxism.
Regular Dentist Visits
Regular dental checkups can help them or any healthcare provider detect signs of bruxism before they cause severe dental issues. They will compare bite marks from previous sessions and notice any wear and tear related to tooth grinding and clenching.
Among the top prevention measures is to limit or avoid the consumption of caffeine (found in coffee, tea, and certain sodas), as well as alcohol and any other stimulant drugs, as these substances can lead to or aggravate bruxism.
Jaw Exercises and Massages
Exercises that help relax the jaw muscles can be beneficial in preventing bruxism. Visit a physical therapist that can recommend professional jaw stretches that can help reduce tension in the jaw muscles, especially for cases of awake bruxism, where you can be more aware of the condition. A warm compress every day to relax your jaw is another huge remedy that can aid mild bruxism in many people.
You can also try yoga, and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and tension, which can help prevent bruxism. A big help for many is a warm bath or shower before sleeping, as it helps them relax and sleep better, contributing to their overall health and not just preventing bruxism.
Night guards as prevention
The most popular and effective bruxism treatment option might also function as a preventive measure. Using a mouth guard while sleeping can help reduce the risk of tooth damage caused by bruxism before its worst symptoms develop. A dentist can fit you with a custom night guard that fits snugly over your teeth and helps prevent grinding and clenching.
Treatment of Bruxism
While exercises that help relax the jaw muscles can be helpful in cases of mild bruxism, as can therapy to address the underlying emotional issues, more severe cases might need more comprehensive treatment options.
There are pain medications, and mouth guards can be used to help reduce pain and protect the teeth from further damage, while muscle relaxants can be used to stop the muscle activity that leads to clenching during the day or night. A dentist might also be required to change the chewing surfaces of your teeth or use a crown and other procedures to repair severe damage, like cracking and loss of teeth.
Don't Ignore Bruxism Symptoms
Bruxism is a complex condition, but luckily there are several approaches to deal with it. Night guards, medication, and even a warm bath may be part of the answer. You may even be able to make slight adjustments to your nightly habits or try a jaw massage. Don’t wait to get help if you or someone you know is experiencing any symptoms of bruxism. Make an appointment with a dentist or medical professional, or healthcare provider right away to get a proper diagnosis, stop any complications from getting worse, and start the journey to improved dental and overall health. Taking action as soon as possible is key to managing bruxism and ensuring your well-being.