Bruxism is a condition in which the patient grinds his/her teeth, and it affects children, as well as adults. The condition may be mild, or it may be severe to the point that it causes headaches and jaw disorders. If you have bruxism, you may grind your teeth in your sleep not even be aware of it, which sometimes leads to a delayed diagnosis. Doctors and dentists may only be able to identify the problem when the patient starts to complain of headaches and jaw pain, and erosion of the teeth is evident. You must have regular dental care to prevent damage to your teeth. Children most commonly brux (grind) at night, while adults may brux any time day or night.
You might have bruxism if you have any of these symptoms: You grind your teeth in your sleep loud enough for others to hear; your teeth become chipped and the enamel is worn down; your teeth become sensitive to hot and cold and become painful; you experience jaw pain, and your jaw muscles are always tight; you have frequent earaches, and headaches; your face hurts, and you chew the tissue on your inner cheek.
The cause of bruxism is not completely understood. It is thought that people who chew or grind while awake may have a misalignment between the upper and lower teeth called malocclusion. For people with sleep bruxism, it is thought that grinding is caused by changes in their sleep cycles. Sleep studies are being done to study the patient with sleep bruxism. It is thought that anxiety, stress, suppressed anger, and frustration may be a factor with some adults with bruxism. It is believed that bruxism in children may be related to their teeth not fitting together properly when they are erupting from the gums. A very small percentage of bruxism may be due to other disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Grinding the teeth may also be a side effect of certain medications.
Unless bruxism causes discomfort, it may go unnoticed. If you notice you have worn teeth, you have jaw pain, your face hurts, or you have frequent earaches, you might want to consult with your dentist or medical doctor. If your family members tell you that you grind your teeth at night, you should also report this information to your doctor or dentist.
Your dentist will check you on regular exams to compare the condition of your teeth at each visit. Continued grinding over months and years can break down existing dental work, and fracture teeth. If your dentist sees any evidence of progressive damage he/she may inform you that you need treatment for your bruxism. Many cases of bruxism are managed by the patient undergoing stress management, and wearing a dental appliance to protect the teeth. In more severe cases your dentist or oral surgeon may have to reconstruct the teeth. This treatment may help preserve the teeth, but it may not stop the grinding.
Your doctor or dentist may suggest you take a muscle relaxant medication before bedtime. In some cases the medications given do not help the patient stop clenching and grinding their teeth during sleep. When no other medication helps, the doctor may suggest the patient take Botox injections to therapeutically relieve the pain triggered by the clenching muscles. Botox is used to treat TMJ disorders, and is not only a cosmetic therapy.
You may be able to reduce some of your symptoms by taking measures to reduce stress. Relaxation exercises done throughout the day and at night before bed may help. If you share your bedroom with a partner, ask him/her to inform you if you are grinding your teeth so you can report it to your dentist. Your dentist can fit you with an appliance that will splint your teeth and protect them. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly. If the doctor wants you to visit every 6 months, be sure to keep the appointments. Your dentist will be able to assess the condition of your teeth at each visit and compare the results. It is often a partnership between patient and dentist to find the right treatment for bruxism-the patient can’t do it all, but neither can the dentist-it takes two.