Bruxism can lead to all kinds of health problems such as fractured or cracked teeth, worn down tooth enamel that can lead to a loss of teeth and/or periodontal disease.
What is Bruxism?
It is involuntary, chronic teeth grinding that is caused by stress and anxiety and also by sleep problems and snoring and even due to a few kinds of medicines. It does not happen right throughout the night but instead in bursts or episodes, the number of which can vary each night. Though it happens most nights It may not happen every night. The danger lies in the fact that people with bruxism do not realise how strong they are clenching their jaws and teeth which is why it causes serious problems for your teeth.
How do you identify if you experience Bruxism?
Bruxism is actually quite difficult to self-diagnose because it happens during sleep, when you are unaware that you are grinding your teeth. There will be certain signs or symptoms that you will start to experience which could be an indication of bruxism. If you experience some of the below symptoms it is advisable to consult a dentist to check for signs of tooth damage to confirm if you are suffering from bruxism.
- teeth grinding and clenching
- worn tooth enamel
- painful jaw joints
- increased tooth sensitivity
- tired or tight jaw muscles
- dull headaches around the temples
- neck or face pain or soreness
- disrupted sleep
What causes Bruxism?
Most oral health experts agree that bruxism is caused by stress, anxiety and sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnoea. People with a natural nervous tension or who experience intense anger or frustration can also be affected by this condition. It is similar to grinding your teeth in anger when awake but seeing as you are asleep it is not possible to stop before it causes serious damage. Sleep problems caused by excess caffeine or alcohol consumption can also cause chronic teeth grinding, as can misaligned teeth.
How does Bruxism impact your dental health?
Owing to severe bruxism the pressure placed on your teeth and jaw has a detrimental impact on your oral health. It not only causes intense damage to your teeth, but it also causes gum recession which can loosen the teeth sockets and create deep gingival pockets ideal for bacteria to collect.
It has an impact on your biting and chewing and can even cause speech issues. The force of the grinding can result in worn enamel and cracked teeth that may need crowns to sort out. It further creates jaw problems which affect your face structure. Constant headaches are also a real problem with bruxism.
Is it possible to treat Bruxism?
Bruxism can only be diagnosed through dental visits where a dental expert will examine your teeth for signs of bruxism such as the flattened tips of the teeth.
If you have severe tooth wear and sensitivity owing to the condition, you may be advised to get dental corrections such as with crowns or through re-shaping the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
What are the treatment options available for Bruxism?
Mouthguards or mouth splints are the most common methods of dealing with bruxism because there is no cure to completely stop teeth grinding. It is possible to reduce the intensity and the frequency. Mouthguards act as a barrier between the teeth to protect your teeth from direct grinding of the tooth on tooth. In some cases, a dentist may suggest a bedtime muscle relaxant for a short period of time.
It is important to take whatever treatment options you can because bruxism can lead to permanent damage. Pain, headaches, tooth fractures or loss and temporomandibular disorders (TMJ Syndrome), along with jaw muscle problems and joint issues which make it difficult to chew and restrict motion. Prolonged bruxism can affect facial bones and nerves especially the teeth where intense pressure on the teeth affects the nerves.
Along with mouth guards, you could try yoga to help reduce stress and calm the mind, as it is a mindful movement that focuses on meditation, stretching and relaxing. A few other steps that can help include:
- Practice good sleeping habits
- Avoid any stimulating substances towards the evening
- Along with yoga find other relaxing measures to calm your mind such as reading, music, walks etc
- Speak to loved ones or a professional to ease the stress
- Schedule regular dental exams to reduce the impact of bruxism
If you feel as though you may suffer from bruxism the most important thing to do first is consult your dentist and invest in a mouthguard. Next do some of the suggestions mentioned here to calm your mind and see what factors are causing you stress. During the day if you find yourself grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, take a conscious minute to acknowledge it and stop doing it immediately. While chronic bruxism cannot be cured it can be controlled to reduce its detrimental impact, so take the steps needed to protect your oral and overall health.