Bruxism is a condition in which you grind or clench your teeth, usually unconsciously. It can happen when you’re asleep or when you’re awake.
Sleep bruxism is regarded as a sleep-related movement disorder, and people who brux during sleep are more likely to experience other sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. People who brux while they’re awake are often stressed or experience anxiety issues.
Since you may grind your teeth and be unaware of it until complications develop, it’s important to know the telltale symptoms and to seek regular dental care to prevent oral health issues.
At Cityview Dental Arts in the Bucktown and Wicker Park areas of Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Jerome Bock understands the many different facets of grinding your teeth, and he’s pledged himself and his team to take the worry out of dental care.
Here’s what he wants you to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for grinding your teeth.
What are risk factors for teeth grinding?
There are a number of factors that increase your risk of bruxism:
Increased anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration can all lead to bruxism both while you’re awake and while you’re asleep. It’s both a reaction to these conditions and an attempt to relieve them.
People who are naturally aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive have an increased risk for bruxism for many of the same reasons as someone who is stressed.
Medications and other substances
Though not a common side effect, bruxism can result from taking certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants. In addition, smoking, consuming caffeine or alcohol, and using recreational drugs can increase your risk.
Sleep bruxism tends to occur in families, leading researchers to suspect there may be a genetic component. If a close blood relative grinds their teeth at night, you have an increased risk of doing so, too.
There are a number of other physical and mental disorders associated with grinding your teeth. These include Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, night terrors, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What are the symptoms and complications of grinding your teeth?
Teeth grinding is more complicated than just clicking your teeth together. Other symptoms include:
- Pain in your face and ears
- Pain in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Wearing down of tooth surfaces
- Loose or painful teeth
- Cracked or damaged teeth
- Cracks in fillings and crowns
- Difficulty sleeping
In extreme cases, you may have difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing.
If you don’t treat bruxism, you risk complications like chronic headaches and ear pain, facial muscle enlargement, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), and the need for dental work such as bonding, filling, or crowns and bridges.
How is teeth grinding treated?
There are a number of different dental treatments that can help stop bruxism or alleviate its symptoms. Some of these are:
Mouthguards and splints
Mouthguards are a type of occlusal splint that works by fitting over your teeth, cushioning them, and preventing them from grinding against each other while you sleep. Mouthguards can also help alleviate the pain and stiffness of TMD.
You can buy over-the-counter mouthguards, but the one-size-fits-all really fits nobody and it’s not a guaranteed fix. We can take a mold of your teeth and provide you with a custom-made mouthguard that will fit perfectly and comfortably to relieve your symptoms.
We use this procedure to reshape or level the biting surface of your teeth so there’s less pressure if you clench your teeth together. This intervention is most effective if your bruxism is caused by crowded, crooked, or misaligned teeth.
If your teeth grinding is due to stress or anxiety, stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and exercise may help decrease your clenching. The big benefit is that stress-reduction can also improve your overall health, so you’re bound to see some benefit.
In a meta-analysis of four studies, investigators found evidence linking injections of Botox with decreased pain and frequency of teeth grinding. If Botox is appropriate for you, we’ll inject a small amount into the masseter muscle, the large muscle that moves your jaw.
Botox is not a cure for bruxism (each treatment lasts only 3-4 months), but it can relax the muscle. In turn, this can alleviate both teeth grinding and any associated headaches.
So should you be concerned if you grind your teeth? Yes, you should, since it can lead to a wide range of problems, from aches and pains to broken teeth.
To find out more about what you can do about teeth grinding, give Cityview Dental Arts a call at 309-432-5483, or book an appointment online today.