What’s Bruxism and How Does It Impact Oral Health?

Most of us don’t have a clue what “bruxism” means. However, if you’ve suffered from bruxism, you know it can be extremely unpleasant. If you’ve sought treatment, then you also know that your dentist can be a lifeline to dealing with the effects of bruxism.

Bruxism is the technical term for grinding your teeth. It’s a fairly common condition, and a little of it won’t do lasting damage to your teeth. But a lot of it can impact your health in a variety of areas. Because the majority of people grind their teeth while they are sleeping, they usually don’t notice the effects until they start to experience health issues.

Once you do realize you are grinding your teeth – or your dentist notices it when you come in for a dental check-up – your dentist can help you effectively tackle the issue and positively improve both your oral health and overall health.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Grinding or clenching your teeth (it may be so loud that other people notice it)

Chipped, flattened, fractured or loose teeth

Extra tooth sensitivity

A feeling of soreness or tightness in your face or jaw

Headache or dull earache

Tinnitus – commonly called ringing in your ears

What are the causes of bruxism?

Although an exact cause of bruxism hasn’t been discovered by medical scientists, there are several causes (physical and psychological) that have been linked to bruxism.

“Negative emotions”: Stress, anger, anxiety and frustration have all been connected to bruxism as triggers.

Concentrating: To reduce stress or concentrate, people will often clench or grind their teeth (and they are usually not aware of this habit).

Alignment: Malocclusion – commonly called poor teeth alignment can lead to bruxism.

Sleep Apnea: Bruxism can be exacerbated by sleep apnea.

Other Causes:  Medical disorders, some psychiatric medications, and even acid reflux can impact teeth grinding.

Available treatment options

Often, a person with bruxism will either grow out of the condition or have a less intense form of the condition that doesn’t need to be treated. However, if you have a more intense form of bruxism, there are an array of treatment options to choose from, including:

Dental Intervention: Relief from the effects of bruxism can often be found by a visit to your dentist. After doing a thorough examination, they may recommend splints or a mouth guard to stop further damage to your teeth. Your dentist will also check for misalignment of your teeth – which may be a culprit for your bruxism – and then determine a treatment plan that is appropriate.

Therapeutic Approaches: If your bruxism is based on psychological factors, different therapeutic approaches that focus on the underlying cause can be successful. These include behavior therapy, stress management, and/or biofeedback.  

Medications: Generally, medications aren’t used to treat bruxism, but in severe cases a doctor may prescribe Botox injections or muscle relaxants to prevent grinding.

If you can get a good grasp of bruxism’s symptoms, causes, and treatments, you have a good chance of finding success in controlling or eliminating bruxism. That’s bound to let you rest easy knowing that grinding your teeth isn’t wearing down your health.

Sources: MayoClinic.org, WebMD.co

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