Bruxism refers to an oral parafunctional activity which occurs in most humans at some point in their lives. The grinding of the teeth and the clenching of the jaw are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur either during the day or at night.
When people grind their teeth the incisors and canines (front 6 upper and lower teeth) of opposing arches rub against each other laterally. This side to side action puts undue strain on various facial muscles and the temporomandibular joints. Earache, depression, headaches, tooth pain and anxiety are amongst the most common symptoms of bruxism; which often accompanies chronic stress, Alzheimer’s disease and alcohol abuse.
Bruxism is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, because it is only one of several potential causes of tooth wear. Only a trained professional can tell the difference between bruxing wear and wear caused by overly aggressive brushing, acidic soft drinks and abrasive foods.
Reasons for the treatment of bruxism
Here are some of the main reasons why bruxism should be promptly treated:
Occlusal trauma – The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures in the teeth, which may require restorative treatment. Sometimes these fractures are so severe that teeth are not restorable and need to be removed.
Arthritis – In severe and chronic cases, bruxing can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints (the joints that allow the jaw to open smoothly).
Myofascial pain – The grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the myofascial region as well as debilitating headaches.
Treatment options for bruxism
There is no single cure for bruxism, though a variety of helpful devices and tools are available. Here are some common ways in which bruxism is treated:
Mouthguards – An acrylic mouthguard can be designed from tooth impressions to minimize the abrasive action of tooth surfaces during normal sleep. Mouthguards should be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth damage, damage to the temporomandibular joint and help to stabilize the occlusion. There are several types of mouthguards available, some that cover all of the teeth in one of the arches and others that cover only the front teeth. Each type has its own benefits and your dentist will determine which is best for you.
- Stress Management
Other methods of treatment include relaxation exercises, stress management education and biofeedback mechanisms. When the bruxing is under control, there are a variety of dental procedures such as crowns, gum grafts and crown lengthening that can restore a pleasant aesthetic appearance to the smile. Teeth can be made to look unworn once again.
If you have questions or concerns about bruxism, please ask your dentist.