Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a prevalent condition that affects both children and adults. And even if most people only know it as teeth grinding and not by the more medical term of bruxism, there might be a belief it’s a simple disorder, and there’s not much to know about it.
However, there are several common misconceptions surrounding bruxism that need to be addressed that all too often lead to a majority of the population leaving their grinding untreated or making it worse.
We’ll aim to dispel these common myths and provide accurate information about the causes and consequences of bruxism. By shedding light on the true nature of this problem, our goal is to educate readers on oral hygiene and encourage them to seek appropriate treatment if they suspect they are grinding their teeth.
Definition of Bruxism
Bruxism is a condition characterized by teeth grinding or clenching, which can occur during sleep (sleep bruxism) or while awake (awake bruxism). It involves the involuntary and repetitive movement of the jaw muscles, leading to excessive wear on the teeth, jaw pain, headaches, jaw locking, and other related symptoms.
Sleep bruxism, a nocturnal parafunctional habit involving the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep, is a frequently misunderstood condition. It affects both children and adults, with the prevalence of sleep bruxism being approximately 8% in children and 10% in adults, although some studies estimate the rate is higher because many simply do not know they have sleep bruxism due to the very nature of the condition; it occurs mostly while sleeping.
The consequences of sleep bruxism on oral health are varied but can include tooth wear, jaw pain, and headaches. It is often associated with stress, anxiety, and certain medications.
Diagnosing sleep bruxism can be challenging. However, common signs and symptoms include worn tooth surfaces, jaw and face pain, and headaches upon waking.
It is important to address sleep bruxism promptly to prevent long-term damage to the teeth and jaw. Regular dental check-ups and open communication with your dentist can help in managing this condition and maintaining good oral health.
Awake bruxism is straightforward: the habit of involuntarily grinding or clenching but while awake. It is a common condition that affects many individuals and can lead to some of the same dental issues, as sleep bruxism, but these are very different conditions.
Awake bruxism is the sustained tooth contact coupled with the bracing or thrusting o f the jaw while awake. This is generally associated with stress and anxiety. If left untreated, awake bruxism can cause significant damage to the teeth and jaw joints.
If you experience facial pain or suspect that you may have awake bruxism, it is important to consult with a dental professional. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment options to alleviate your symptoms and prevent further damage.
Common Myths about Bruxism
There are several common myths about bruxism that need to be dispelled for the sake of everyone’s health, as well as for the sake of medical professionals everywhere. Here are just some of the most common myths dental health professionals here often—and have to push back on.
Myth 1: Everyone with a Bad Bite Grinds Their Teeth
While it is commonly believed that everyone with a bad bite grinds their teeth, this is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be caused by various factors, and a bad bite is just one of them.
It is true that a misaligned bite can contribute to teeth grinding in some cases, but it is not the sole cause. Other factors, such as stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders, are the most likely factors that lead to bruxism.
Orthodontic treatment may be recommended for individuals with a bad bite, but it is important to understand that not everyone with a bad bite will grind and clench. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a dental professional to determine the underlying cause of bruxism and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Myth 2: Braces Cure Teeth Grinding
Orthodontic treatment, such as braces, is often mistakenly believed to be a cure for teeth grinding right away, but this is a myth that needs to be debunked. While braces can certainly help in correcting misaligned teeth and improving the overall bite, they do not directly address the underlying causes of bruxism or teeth grinding.
Bruxism is a complex condition that can have a multitude of contributing factors, including certain medications. So while braces may help in achieving a more aligned bite, they do not address all underlying issues.
It is important to understand that bruxism requires a comprehensive approach that may involve stress management techniques, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, the use of oral appliances. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a qualified dental professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
Myth 3: Bruxism Goes Away on Its Own and Not Dangerous
Bruxism cannot simply be dismissed as a harmless condition that will resolve itself over time. Contrary to popular belief, the severe consequences of bruxism are not a myth and it is definitely not something that goes away on its own.
Teeth grinding can have serious consequences if left untreated. It can lead to worn-down teeth, lead to tooth loss and fractures, jaw pain, headaches, gum disease, gum recession, and even temporomandibular joint disorders. Ignoring this condition can result in irreversible damage to your teeth and overall oral health.
It is important to seek professional help if you suspect you have bruxism. A dentist can diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as a mouth guard or stress management techniques, while a physical therapist can help with jaw exercises that alleviate pain and discomfort.
Don’t fall for the misconception that bruxism is harmless and will disappear on its own. Take action to protect your teeth and well-being before you’re lulled into a sense of complacency and suffer jaw pain, tooth loss, or even gum disease.
Myth 4: It Always Leads to Jaw Pain or Headaches
Many individuals mistakenly believe that bruxism always results in jaw pain or headaches, but this is not necessarily the case. While it is true that up to 60% of those with bruxism suffer from jaw pain, headaches, and even ear pain, not everyone who grinds their teeth will experience these issues.
Bruxism can manifest differently in each individual. Some people may only grind their teeth during sleep, while others may grind their teeth during the day without even realizing it. The severity of the grinding and jaw clenching can also vary, with some individuals doing it more forcefully than others.
This means that while jaw pain and headaches are often associated with bruxism, it is not a guarantee. It is important to recognize that bruxism can still be present and damaging to the teeth even without these symptoms, making regular dental check-ups essential for early detection and intervention.
Myth 5: Wearing Dentures Prevents You from Experiencing Bruxism
First, it is worth noting that dentures are mostly worn by older people, who tend to have a lower risk of bruxism. Nonetheless, wearing dentures does not prevent individuals from experiencing either awake or sleep-related bruxism.
While it is commonly believed that wearing dentures can act as a barrier and prevent bruxism, this is a myth. Patients with bruxism who wear dentures are still at risk of tooth or denture damage and other related issues.
Tooth damage is a common consequence of bruxism, regardless of whether a person wears dentures or not. Dentures may offer some protection against tooth wear, but they cannot completely eliminate the grinding and clenching motions associated with the condition, which lead to headaches, jaw pain, and other severe effects of bruxism.
Therefore, patients with bruxism should seek appropriate treatment from healthcare professionals such as dentists or physical therapists who can provide effective strategies to manage the condition.
Myth 6: Children Don’t Experience Bruxism
On the contrary, studies have shown that bruxism in children is quite common, with prevalence rates ranging from 13% to 49%. In fact, it is actually more common in children than in adults, with the condition actually slowly being rarer as you age. It is important to recognize that children can experience bruxism for various reasons, such as stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth, or even as a response to teething.
It is crucial for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bruxism in children, such as jaw pain, headaches, worn-down teeth, and disrupted sleep. Seeking professional dental care can help alleviate the discomfort and protect the child’s oral health.
Therefore, it is essential to dispel the myth that children do not experience bruxism and to address any concerns promptly. If your child is experiencing symptoms of bruxism, it is recommended to consult a dentist for a thorough assessment of bruxism and appropriate treatment options. These may include a mouth guard or other interventions to protect the teeth and the temporomandibular joint.
Myth 7: You Can Stop Your Child from Grinding Their Teeth By Only Using a Mouth Guard During Sleep
It is important to understand that in most cases a mouth guard acts simply as a barrier to protect the teeth from damage due to tooth contact during bruxism events.Wearing a mouth guard during sleep may protect the teeth but it will usually not be enough to stop your child from grinding and clenching their teeth.
Teeth grinding in children can be caused by various factors, such as stress, anxiety, or misaligned teeth. Consulting with a pediatric dentist or a healthcare professional can help determine the best course of action for your child’s specific situation.
Myth 8: Worms in Kids Can Lead to Bruxism
Can worms in kids really lead to bruxism? The question probably keeps some parents up at night after reading about it online or seeing their kids with symptoms of bruxism. This is a common myth that needs to be clarified. While it is true that certain parasites, like pinworms, can affect oral health and even lead to some clenching of teeth, restless nights, and irritability, worm or parasite infections rarely lead to full-blown bruxism.
Myth 9: White Spots or Sores on Tongue Indicates a Person Grinds Their Teeth at Night
White spots or sores on the tongue do not necessarily indicate that a person grinds their teeth at night. While it is true that teeth grinding and jaw clenching can cause tongue irritation, it is not the only cause.
There are several other factors that can lead to white spots or sores on the tongue, such as oral thrush, canker sores, or even a vitamin deficiency, meaning they’re not outright evidence of bruxism.
Consulting a dentist or healthcare professional is recommended to determine the cause of your tongue sores and to address any underlying dental or medical issues.
Myth 10: Alcohol Consumption Causes Bruxism
Alcohol consumption has been wrongly mentioned as a main risk factor for bruxism, but this is a common myth that needs to be addressed. The relationship between bruxism and alcohol can be complex, and it is true that it can have negative effects on oral hygiene and health, and alcohol may exacerbate sleep-related bruxism, but there is no direct causal evidence linking it to bruxism by itself.
It is a combination of factors that can lead to bruxism, including stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Alcohol can worsen the effects of chronic stress and anxiety, which then leads to bruxism, but it’s not a primary bruxism trigger.
Maintaining good oral health and seeking professional help if experiencing bruxism symptoms is crucial for overall health and well-being.
Treatments and Solutions
As we mentioned while correcting a myth above, leaving bruxism untreated can have several severe effects on not just oral health but even overall health. From tension headaches to TMJ, gum disease, and even tooth loss, there are plenty of severe consequences that should convince anyone to seek treatment.
And there are various effective treatments available for managing bruxism or teeth grinding.
One common approach is the use of night guards, which are custom-made devices worn during sleep to protect the teeth from grinding. These night guards help to alleviate the symptoms associated with bruxism, such as jaw pain and tooth damage.
For managing awake bruxism, one common dental treatment option is the use of a custom-made mouth guard, which helps protect the teeth from grinding and clenching forces during the day. And just like with sleep bruxism, stress management techniques, and relaxation exercises can be beneficial in reducing awake bruxism episodes.
Another option is stress management techniques, as stress and anxiety are often underlying causes of teeth grinding. Engaging in relaxation exercises, such as yoga or meditation, can help to reduce stress levels and minimize bruxism episodes.
Finally, making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding stimulating substances like caffeine and alcohol, can also contribute to managing bruxism.
It’s critical to consult with a dentist or healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan for each individual.
Keep In Mind These Myths and Remember to Check the Facts With a Professional
Now that we know dentures don’t prevent bruxism, that it can affect both children and adults, and it is not a harmless habit but can lead to dental and health issues, we recommend you keep in contact with your dental healthcare provider or oral surgeon for any further doubts about teeth grinding, jaw clenching or any possible episodes of bruxism you might suspect of having.
By understanding the true nature of bruxism and dispelling many dental myths, individuals can seek appropriate treatment and prevent further complications.