Often caused by genetics, stress or anxiety, Bruxism is a condition that involves grinding, gnashing or clenching the teeth causing involuntary, strong contractions of the jaw muscles. Caffeine and medications like antidepressants can also increase your chance of grinding. Bruxism can happen unconsciously when we’re awake but also when we’re sleeping.
Our teeth are designed to be in contact with each other when we chew, but apart when we’re not eating. Even if our mouth and lips are closed, our upper and lower teeth shouldn’t really be in contact. Clenching the jaw and teeth places pressure on the jaw muscles and teeth, which if sustained over time can cause problems.
It’s difficult to know if you are grinding your teeth unless your dentist examines your teeth. However, you may suspect you are if you’re experiencing:
Your dentist will check for signs of bruxism at your regular dental check-up where they’ll be looking for common symptoms like tooth damage, worn enamel or flattened, fractured or loose teeth. Your dentist will also ask you for a history of any discomfort or changes in your mouth or jaw.
Addressing the cause of grinding, not just the symptoms, will help you to stop your teeth from grinding and causing further damage.
Not everyone who grinds their teeth will need treatment. Children, for example, will often grow out of it. Similarly, for many people, tooth grinding is transient and only appears during stressful times. If you’re stressed, mindfulness and relaxation strategies, as well as developing positive sleep hygiene habits can make a difference.
To manage the physical symptoms of bruxism, a custom-made mouthguard, also called an occlusal splint is designed to prevent tooth damage that occurs during sleep. It also decreases the symptoms of muscle and jaw discomfort caused by grinding.
Your dentist will also make recommendations to repair any damaged teeth. Fillings and crowns may be necessary to repair damaged or worn teeth. Left untreated, severe bruxism can damage teeth so much that they may need to be removed.
Another treatment option is to have Botox injections into the jaw and chewing muscles. Botox works for bruxism by blocking the nerve transmission between the brain and the injected muscles, causing them to relax.
Book an appointment with your dentist to check if you are experiencing bruxism symptoms.