The Role of Orthodontics in Treating Bruxism

Bruxism is a common issue that affects many individuals, often unconsciously, during sleep. While there are various methods for managing bruxism, did you know that braces and other orthodontics can be used to treat bruxism to some degree? 


By rectifying dental misalignments, orthodontic treatments such as braces can play a pivotal role in mitigating the factors contributing to bruxism.


In this blog post, we’ll help you understand the intricate relationship between orthodontics and bruxism, opening avenues for exploring more comprehensive strategies for alleviating symptoms and enhancing overall oral well-being.


What Is Bruxism and What Causes It? 


Bruxism can be best described as both a condition and a chronic habit of unconsciously grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth, often while awake or throughout the day but also possible during sleep.


While occasional teeth grinding may not pose serious harm, persistent and untreated teeth grinding at night or during the day can result in permanent dental damage. Symptoms include jaw pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity or damage, and disrupted sleep, all of which can have secondary effects on overall health.


A majority of individuals with chronic bruxism are children, affecting around 15% to 30% of children and up to 10% of adults.


While sleep bruxism is more prevalent, awake bruxism is often underreported despite being the more common form in certain populations and the one type that poses the most threat to health. The grinding of teeth at night can be more severe because it is typically only noticed by a dentist or sleep partner after the symptoms get worse and tooth damage is obvious.


What causes it? While there’s likely not one single cause, there are a handful of known risk factors or conditions that are linked to it.


  • Stress and anxiety
  • Abnormal bite alignment
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Bad Sleep Habits
  • Temporomandibular disorders
  • Medications that can increase muscle activity
  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Smoking
  • Genetic factors
  • Neurological disorders
  • Psychological factors
  • Misaligned teeth.


Understanding the symptoms and root causes of bruxism is crucial in developing effective treatment strategies to alleviate the associated dental issues and discomfort.


Bruxism Symptoms


Manifesting primarily during sleep, the involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth, known as bruxism, can lead to various symptoms that impact oral health and overall well-being.


  • Chronic teeth grinding can result in worn tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity and an increased risk of cavities.
  • Individuals with bruxism may also experience jaw pain, which can radiate to the ears and head, causing headaches.
  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns, can be linked to bruxism due to the constant muscle activity it results in during the night.
  • The constant wear and tear then lead to loose teeth, broken teeth, and even misaligned teeth and bites, which is also a known cause of teeth grinding. 


Severe bruxism can have more pronounced effects, including facial pain, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), and damaged teeth or dental restorations that will need extensive and expensive dental work.


Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for timely intervention to not just prevent further dental issues but because, if left untreated, bruxism can not only impact oral health but also affect your quality of life, leading to chronic pain and discomfort.


How a Misaligned Bite Can Lead to Bruxism


While it’s essential to recognize that bruxism can also be triggered by factors beyond just dental misalignment, such as stress and anxiety, a misaligned bite, if left untreated, can result in various dental issues, including unconscious teeth grinding and jaw clenching. 


In cases where a misaligned bite is the root cause of bruxism, the jaw muscles can become overworked as they struggle to find a comfortable resting position. This excessive strain on the jaw muscles can result in teeth grinding and clenching, even during sleep.

woman in dentist chair

Can Braces Help With Teeth Grinding?


Braces are traditional dental appliances that use brackets, wires, and bands to gradually move teeth into proper alignment. They are effective in fixing complex bite issues by guiding the teeth into their correct positions. Clear Aligners offer a more discreet and convenient alternative to normal braces. These clear aligners are custom-made to fit snugly over teeth and gently shift them into alignment over time.


Both braces and Invisalign help improve both teeth and bite alignment, reducing the likelihood of bruxism development and giving patients a perfect smile.


Be aware that severe teeth grinding and clenching can wear down both braces and Invisalign and might require you to replace them more often than normal. This isn’t very common, however, and is typically a problem only in extreme bruxism cases.


Seeking orthodontic treatment for a misaligned bite not only enhances the aesthetics of the smile but also promotes overall oral health and prevents potential complications like bruxism.


Crooked Teeth or Bite Not Always Only Cause of Teeth Grinding


Nonetheless, teeth grinding and clenching can be attributed to various factors beyond just the presence of crooked teeth or a misaligned bite. While misaligned teeth can contribute to bruxism by causing irregular contact between the teeth, leading to excessive grinding and clenching, other factors play a role as well, and any oral health care provider must make sure that no other factors or medical conditions are leading to grinding or clenching.


Night Guards and Other Treatment Options for Bruxism


In cases where misalignment isn’t an issue, wearing a night guard can help protect the teeth from the effects of grinding and clenching, allowing the jaw muscles to relax and reducing the likelihood of bruxism-related complications. Guards, along with these other treatment options, should be part of a multi-pronged approach to managing bruxism.


Night Guards or Mouth Guards


Night guards are custom-made devices that fit over the teeth and are typically worn during sleep to prevent teeth grinding, although they can also be used during the day and be called mouth guards or splints. These guards create a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth, reducing the damage caused by the excessive forces generated during bruxism episodes.


By wearing night guards, patients with bruxism can safeguard their teeth from wear and tear while also relieving the strain on their jaw muscles. These guards help to alleviate the symptoms associated with bruxism, such as jaw pain, headaches, and tooth sensitivity. Additionally, night guards can aid in improving sleep quality for patients who experience disruptions due to teeth-grinding noises.


For optimal effectiveness, patients should consult with a dental professional to have custom night guards fitted. These personalized devices offer a comfortable and tailored solution to address the individual needs of patients suffering from bruxism.


Wearing Braces and Night Guards at the Same Time


Both braces and Invisalign are compatible with night guards and mouth guards, although braces are more so because you can wear night guards while having braces. However, you have to remove your Invisalign braces if you want to use night guards, although they can actually function as night guard in mild cases of bruxism. Talk to your dentist or oral health provider about the best option for using braces while suffering from bruxism.


Stress and Anxiety Relief 


Managing stress and anxiety plays a significant role in addressing bruxism, complementing the effectiveness of night guards and other treatment options in alleviating the symptoms associated with this condition.


Stress and anxiety are common triggers for teeth grinding and clenching, especially during sleep. By actively working to reduce stress levels and manage anxiety through relaxation techniques, mindfulness practices, or seeking professional help, individuals can significantly improve their bruxism symptoms.


Incorporating stress-relief activities into daily routines can not only benefit overall well-being but also contribute to better sleep quality, which is crucial for bruxism management. 


Creating a calm and relaxing bedtime routine, using night guards as recommended by dental professionals, and addressing the root causes of stress and anxiety can lead to improved sleep patterns and reduced bruxism symptoms.


Medication for Treating Bruxism Symptoms


How can medication be utilized to effectively treat the symptoms of bruxism, complementing night guards and other treatment options?


While night guards and other treatments focus on protecting the teeth and managing the physical aspects of bruxism, medication can target the underlying causes and symptoms.


Medication for treating bruxism symptoms often includes muscle relaxants to reduce jaw muscle tension, pain relievers to alleviate discomfort, and anti-anxiety medications to address stress-related bruxism.


These medications can be used to provide comprehensive care for individuals suffering from bruxism. Additionally, for individuals whose bruxism is linked to specific health conditions, such as sleep disorders, medication tailored to treat these underlying issues may also be recommended.


When considering treatment options for bruxism, incorporating medication alongside other interventions can offer a holistic approach to addressing both the symptoms and root causes of this condition. By working in tandem with night guards and other therapies, medication can enhance the effectiveness of bruxism treatment and improve the overall well-being of individuals experiencing bruxism symptoms.


Biofeedback Therapy 


Biofeedback therapy has emerged as a promising avenue for augmenting the efficacy of night guards and other treatment options. Biofeedback therapy involves using electronic devices to monitor and provide feedback on muscle activity and tension levels associated with bruxism. By increasing awareness of these muscle patterns, patients can learn to consciously control and relax the muscles involved in teeth grinding, ultimately reducing bruxism symptoms.


Orthodontics plays a vital role in the integration of biofeedback therapy for bruxism treatment. Orthodontic specialists can work collaboratively with patients undergoing biofeedback therapy to ensure proper alignment of the teeth and jaws, which can help alleviate muscle tension and decrease the likelihood of bruxism episodes.


Through a combination of biofeedback therapy, orthodontic interventions, and muscle relaxation techniques, individuals suffering from bruxism can experience significant improvements in their condition.


This holistic approach to bruxism treatment focuses on addressing the root causes of teeth grinding, offering patients a comprehensive and effective treatment plan to manage their symptoms and improve their overall oral health.


Improving Diet and Lifestyle 


A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients such as magnesium and calcium can help support muscle function and reduce teeth-grinding tendencies. Encouraging patients to limit the consumption of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol, especially close to bedtime, can aid in minimizing bruxism episodes during sleep.


Establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating a relaxing sleep environment can also contribute to more restful sleep, potentially reducing nocturnal bruxism episodes. By incorporating these diet and lifestyle modifications alongside orthodontic treatments, healthcare providers can offer a holistic approach to managing bruxism and improving overall oral health.


Orthodontics Plus A Holistic Approach Are Key to Combating Bruxism


Orthodontic interventions such as braces and night guards play a crucial role in treating bruxism by correcting dental misalignments that contribute to teeth grinding and jaw clenching.


By aligning teeth and jaws properly, orthodontic treatments not only improve smile aesthetics but also alleviate muscle tension, decrease the likelihood of bruxism episodes, and promote overall oral health. 


However, these can only provide temporary relief from some of the more damaging aspects of grinding and clenching, and comprehensive treatment of bruxism should combine orthodontic care with longer-term solutions like biofeedback therapy, stress relief, and possibly even medication.

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