An estimated eight to 16 percent of adults and about 14 to 20 percent of children have bruxism. This is a complicated-sounding dental term, but the condition is one you’ve probably heard of: teeth grinding or clenching.
Mayo Clinic explains:
“Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism).”
Sometimes bruxism is minor and causes no problems. However, in severe cases, it can lead to a variety of dental issues. Lampros and Reopelle Orthodontics take all cases of bruxism seriously and work with our patients to keep their teeth and gums healthy and strong.
What Causes Bruxism?
There are many factors that may contribute to teeth grinding and clenching. Since it tends to be more common in children, getting older may decrease your risk. Some of the risk factors, as outlined by Mayo Clinic and this study, include the following:
- Stress: Anxiety, anger, and frustration, as well as having a hyperactive or aggressive personality, can lead to bruxism.
- Psychological Disorders: “A child with a psychological disorder had a 3.6 times greater likelihood of bruxism,” according to the study. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea may contribute as well.
- Family History: Sleep bruxism, in particular, may run in families.
- Medications, Alcohol, and Tobacco: The Journal of the American Dental Association reported a connection between alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco and bruxism. Certain medications can also increase your risk.
Problematic Effects of Bruxism
With severe grinding or clenching, you might experience some of the following complications:
- Damaged or broken teeth or dental work like crowns and fillings
- Ear pain
- Jaw pain and temporomandibular jaw disorders (TMJ)
- Receding gums
These unfavorable effects might be your only symptoms of bruxism. You might not realize you clench or grind your teeth, especially if you do it while you’re sleeping. However, if you notice any of the effects listed above, or if you experience muscle tenderness in the jaw or sudden sensitivity in your teeth to heat, cold, or sweets, you might want to see your dentist.
Treatment for Bruxism
Your dentist may suggest a mouth guard to protect your teeth at night. There are also several different types of splints that can reduce clenching. If the first one doesn’t work for you, you might have more success with a different type.
There are also a variety of self-care tips that may help you ease the symptoms and prevent the condition.
- Practice stress relief techniques, like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation, or anything that helps you have fun and relax.
- Avoid hard-to-chew foods, and don’t chew gum.
- Drink lots of water.
- Sleep well! Try turning off your digital devices at least an hour before bed, keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- Focus on relaxing your face throughout the day.
- Learn some stretches to ease tension in your head, neck, and jaw. (Your dentist can help you with this.)
You may be able to teach yourself to stop clenching your teeth by becoming more aware of your grinding or clenching habits throughout the day, although this particular technique is not as effective for sleep bruxism. Orthodontic treatments to bring the teeth into their optimal alignment may also help.
If you suspect bruxism in yourself or your children, don’t worry. It’s not dangerous, but it can lead to discomfort and some inconvenient dental work if the grinding is severe enough to damage the teeth. Make an appointment at Lampros and Reopelle Orthodontics and ask for our professional opinion. We will suggest some at-home tips for you to try, and if they don’t work for you, a mouth guard or splint may be the next logical step.