Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Tiffany is a 25 year old woman who wake up with jaw pain and at times temple headaches and didn’t know why until she got married recently and her husband got to tell her that she makes grinding and gnashing sounds in her teeth. She talked to her dentist who told her that she has Bruxism and that is why she gets jaw and teeth pain in the morning. He noticed that her lower teeth are a little worn down. Bruxism is a term used for teeth grinding or clenching and derived from Greek language meaning “gnashing teeth”. If bruxism occurs during sleep, it is called sleep bruxism.

Many people have mild bruxism and it goes undetected and might not require treatment. More severe grinding can lead to many problems:

  • Teeth damage
  • Temporomandibular joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Gum recession
  •  Temperature sensitivity of teeth
  • Sleep disturbance

People become aware of bruxism typically when their dentist notices wearing of their teeth during routine dental exam. A bed partner or parent might hear sounds of teeth gnashing that sound like the “chipmunck” during the night. If you look at the teeth of someone with considerable Bruxism, you will see that the teeth are blunted and shortened due to the lateral movements that abrade the teeth during teeth grinding at night.

No one knows what causes bruxism, but scientist think it might be because of malocclusion (misalignment) of the teeth. Stress is a contributing factor. Associated conditions with Bruxism include sleep, smoking, stress, medications (stimulants such as methyphenidate).

Daytime clenching is also a common unconscious activity which worsens with stress. So stress reduction techniques help.

How to reduce bruxism

  • Look for causes or things that worsen it and try to treat them or eliminated them: sleep apnea, smoking, medications, stress etc.
  • Visit your dentist to look for damaged teeth (wear and tear).
  • An appliance called dental splint or mouth guard can be purchased from the local pharmacy or you can have it custom made by your dentist. This appliance protects your teeth from the abrasion and wear, decrease mandibular damage and improve any maloccusion. You would wear it during sleep.
  • Stress reduction for clenching
  • Apply a warm towel to jaw muscles in the late evenings
  • Alcohol and caffeine make it worse- minimize of avoid