Teeth grinding (referred to as bruxism) is an involuntary habit of excessive grinding of teeth. If teeth grinding is not treated on time, then it might have serious health consequences. Uncontrolled bruxism triggers some considerable effect on temporomandibular joint, jaw muscles and can also lead to severe sleeping disorders (1). There are two types of bruxism as Nocturnal bruxism and Diurnal bruxism.
You can treat teeth grinding through conventional as well as natural options. Conventional treatment methods include medication, splints, etc. Whereas, some popular natural remedies for bruxism are stress management, exercises, etc.
Therefore, we should know about bruxism, its signs, impact, and treatment to avoid complications at its earliest.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is taken from a Greek word “brychein” which means gnashing, clenching or grinding of teeth. It is defined as a habit of involuntary, unconscious and excessive grinding, tapping or clenching of teeth causing entail forceful contact between the biting or occlusal surfaces of the upper and lower teeth.
It is a parafunctional activity of masticatory muscles. This act creates a considerable amount of damage to the teeth and the related structures.
It can occur at night when you are asleep and can also happen when you are wide awake. Sleep or nocturnal and wakeful or diurnal bruxisms are the medical terms used respectively.
Night grinding or bruxomania are also the terms which are used. Nocturnal bruxism is most common among children during the eruption of permanent teeth, and it stops after the permanent teeth are fully formed.
How to avoid bruxism
- By lessening the Consumption of excess amount of alcohol and caffeinated drinks
- One should quit smoking of cigarettes
- By coming out of drug addiction, ecstasy and cocaine are some of the drugs
- The practice of meditation and yoga for a healthy lifestyle
- By proper treatment of Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) (2)
Types of bruxism
It is more a sleep disorder involving grinding or clenching of teeth. It is the most severe type of bruxism as in this case patient is unaware of his habit hence early detection is not possible unless one feels pain or abnormalities are observed.
It is more likely to be seen in people who sleep mumble or sleepwalk. Sometimes it is also seen in a person suffering from chronic bad dreams.
This habit is more common in females than in males. Some common causes are short temperament, anxiety or over-excitement which may require psychological or behavioral supervision or consultant.
Signs and symptoms of teeth grinding
Symptoms play a significant role in clenching teeth as the patient does not realize it oneself unless told by their sleeping partner. In case of long-term bruxism, bruxers may notice the following symptoms –
- Tenderness of jaw or pain in the jaw
- A headache, neck pain, earache which may lead to hearing impairment
- Reduction in the height of teeth till stumps
- Yellowish and softening of teeth due to exposure of dentine covered by enamel
- Damaged biting surfaces of anterior teeth and loose of cusps and natural contours in the posterior teeth
- Dental caries formation due to exposure of dentine it is easier for pathogens to penetrate the softer part of teeth and form cavities
- One appears older than actual age due to chin recedes and also an appearance of a square jaw
- Enlargement of the facial muscle of jaw where masseter muscle is located
- TMJ discomfort or pain soreness of jaws and muscles (3)
- Clicking or popping sounds when opening the jaw or while chewing and difficulties in opening the mouth fully
- Malocclusion or bad bite is more common among bruxers than in general population
- The distance between the upper and lower jaw decreases and over closure may develop affecting the aesthetics of the person
- Dislodgement of dental fillings if any
Factors causing bruxism
No single factor is responsible for bruxism. Causative factors vary among different age groups. For instance, in children, it is more of a phase in where the eruption of permanent teeth is a common factor. On the other side, in adults, the primary factor is the way they lead life.
Following are the common factors leading to teeth grinding-
It can be caused due to mild occlusal disturbances or while counteracting a local irritant.
This factor includes unrecognized mental tension which might be due to gastrointestinal disturbances, sleep disorder, hereditary, allergies or endocrine disturbances.
Emotional disturbances like fear, pain, anger, insecurities, and frustrations are hidden in our subconscious mind. Later on, all these emotions result in grinding of teeth. (4)
Occupation where one has to hold instruments with teeth as watchmakers and carpenters do.
Complications which may arise due to teeth grinding
Usually, teeth grinding doesn’t cause serious problems. But if the severity increases then grinding of teeth might lead to following complications –
- Facial or jaw pain
- It may lead to damage of teeth, jaw, restorations, and crown
- Disorders in the temporomandibular joints might happen. You may feel clicking sound while you open or close your mouth.
Bruxism usually has no serious effects, but it may have pathological consequences such as tooth wear, occlusal trauma, and hypertrophy of the masticatory muscles.
Correct diagnosis is necessary to treat teeth grinding. Treatment can be done both conventionally and naturally.
Stress management or psychotherapy
In case of stress and anxiety, it is essential to try to lead a stress-free life by involving in activities which could calm the mind such as meditation, yoga, reading and listening to soothing music.
Or else in severe cases, one can go for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), i.e., a treatment where one can go and talk about the problems and learn various ways to tackle a problem with less stress.
Quitting the habit
It is useful in the case of diurnal bruxism as one needs to be aware of his addiction. To stop the practice of grinding teeth, one can train oneself to place tongue between upper and lower teeth when getting aware of grinding the teeth.
One can also opt for Wakeful EMG feedback that is an instrument recording the presence of muscle tension, this way one can develop the technique for reducing that tension caused by bruxism.
Exercises may or may not be helpful in alleviate bruxism but can be used to complement other approaches. It includes isokinetic and stretching exercise of the mandible. However, it is unlikely to be used as the sole therapeutic approach.
There are no specific medicines to treat bruxism. But in severe cases, one may take ibuprofen which may help in pain relieving or swelling around the jaw by bruxism.
These are removable dental appliances which are molded to be worn at upper or lower arches of teeth. It is designed to be worn at night.
A splint doesn’t stop a person from grinding of teeth, it, however, relieves pressure on the jaw and protects it from the oppressive forces of attrition. Following are the appliances which can be used as splints-
- Night guards or bite guards– these are removable dental cap made from acrylic or hard plastic material which is worn on the upper teeth to avoid grinding between the upper and the lower teeth. It can also be worn while sleeping. These guards are all customized worn for repositioning of jaws to prevent any form of discomfort.
- Occlusal splints-this is an appliance fitted either on upper or lower teeth to prevent any malocclusion due to bruxism.
- Bite plates-it is smaller than night guards, made of acrylic with metal clasps that clip onto the inside of the teeth; it is helpful in the correction of deep bite (upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than required)
- Removable appliances or interocclusal orthopedic appliances – Removable splints are worn at night to guide the movement for minimum periodontal damage.
These are most effective and advised procedures to overcome bruxism. These splints help to raise the bite and relieve the patient of any discomfort.
Over to you on teeth grinding
Bruxism is a major parafunctional disorder which has a high prevalence among most of the population which should be diagnosed as soon as the symptoms are observed and treated early so to avoid significant problems like apnea, exposure of dentine leading to pulpitis and hearing impairment.