Not everyone is familiar with the term bruxism, but you may relate well with its symptoms.
Bruxism is a clinical term used for teeth grinding and clenching. Bruxism is a gradual process of tooth damage that causes wear and tear of the surface enamel.
Following that, the teeth may show signs of malocclusion, temporomandibular joint pain and in severe cases tooth loss.
Most people probably have this habit but are not aware of it. Bruxism is such a common problem that nearly one in three people suffer from it.
Bruxism can affect anyone including children, adults and old aged people. The symptoms are more or less similar in all age groups, but the severity depends on the duration and force applied each time.
Most people develop this habit while sleeping. This is one of the reasons why this oral condition goes unnoticed. It can take months to several years for bruxism to be diagnosed.
Dentists can help to analyze the condition and diagnose it at its initial stages.
While there are specific dental treatments available for bruxism, some additional exercises of the jaw can aid in reducing and relieving the symptoms caused by bruxism.
Let’s read further to check out the cause behind bruxism and what you can do to reduce it.
Bruxism is a term that relates to clenching, grinding, gnashing or gritting of teeth. Bruxism prevalently occurs during the night, but it can also happen during the day due to excessive stress and anxiety. (1)
Sleep distress often leads to prolonged clenching of the teeth. The patients usually are unaware of their habits, but their oral symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of bruxism.
Since bruxism usually has long lasting dental defects, this condition is taken seriously among children and teens. Recent studies have shown that around 20-30% of the children have the habit of teeth grinding during the night. (2)
What causes bruxism?
Some of the common causes of bruxism are as follows –
- Stress and anxiety – stress has become one of the increasing mental problems in today’s world. Some people cope up with it by adapting relaxation therapies while others develop certain physical activities like teeth grinding.
- Hyperactive personality – people who suffer from attention deficit syndrome or are hyperactive develop a higher incidence of bruxism. Nervousness and anxiety often cause them to clench their teeth for long.
- Malocclusions – tooth misalignment and malocclusions are one of the common dental reasons for bruxism. It alters the bite of the patient and causes temporomandibular pain as well.
- Other causes of bruxism may include sleep apnoea, the habit of mouth breathing and psychological problems.
What are the dental effects of bruxism?
Bruxism can have a variety of symptoms depending on the time the habit started and the amount of force applied –
- Tooth attrition or dull teeth
- Chronic tooth pain
- Damage to enamel
- Trauma to cheeks
- Tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain
- Dull headache
- Indentations on the tongue
What are the bruxism exercises?
Bruxism exercises are an effective way to address the cause and effect of teeth grinding. It helps to relieve the patient from the ongoing pain and also reduces the incidence of bruxism. (3)
Some of the bruxism exercises may include –
Follow the steps for at least two to three time in a day –
- Put a warm, wet washcloth on the jaws
- Place your thumb underneath the chin and gently open and close your mouth while keeping the thumb in place
- Place the thumb and forefinger on the front surface of the chin and push your jaw forward
- Touch the roof of the mouth with your tongue and gently open and close the mouth while keeping the tongue in place (4)
Massaging gently around the jaw joints and muscle area relieves the tight knots and tension in the muscles.
Massage with your fingertips around the painful area to warm it up and loosen the muscles.
This exercise includes a religious schedule to be followed to allow quick adaptation. Touch the front area of the roof of your mouth with the tongue and say ‘nnnn’ continuously for at least 1 minute.
This exercise is effective in preventing jaw clenching during the day.
Shoulder and neck exercise
These exercises are a great way to relieve stress and tension in the mind and body that may reflect in jaw clenching habit.
Roll the shoulders to loosen it up. Slowly rotate your head by moving the chin towards your chest and then look up, moving your neck back to the extent it can stretch.
What are the treatments for bruxism?
Conventional treatments for bruxism may include –
A custom made splint or a mouth guard provides separations between the teeth on both the jaws. Furthermore, it prevents tooth damage caused by clenching or grinding.
While it may take some time to get adjusted to wearing a mouth guard, it is one of the most useful treatments to prevent bruxism.
Improper alignment of the teeth is one of the most common conditions to cause bruxism. It is one of the causes that only relieves the symptoms after proper treatment.
Braces, crowns or even oral surgery can help to reshape the tooth surface or realign the tooth position in the jaw.
Often bruxism develops due to excessive stress, anxiety or depression. Although relaxation therapies play an essential role in controlling it, medications like muscle relaxants for jaw pain, antidepressants for stress reduction can help to avoid bruxism to some extent.
Take away message
With an increase in stress and anxiety issues among the population, bruxism is becoming a common dental condition.
Teeth grinding or jaw clenching can have severe cumulative effects on a person’s dental health. Some of these include tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, malocclusion, jaw pain, headache, earache, and gradual tooth loss.
There is no definite cure for bruxism. However, particular home-based exercises can act as an adjunctive to conventional therapy.
All these exercises are simple, quick and easy to follow. If you are suffering from similar symptoms of bruxism, get a dental consultation.
Furthermore, practice the exercises mentioned above to relieve bruxism quickly and live a stress-free life.