Bruxism is excessive clenching, teeth grinding or chewing. It can lead to excessive wear on teeth which might cause:
permanent loss of enamel and tooth structure
cracking and splitting of teeth
damage to jaw joints
Bruxism is unhealthy. It can occur in adults and children during the day or at night.
What causes bruxism?
Studies are still being conducted to investigate the causes of bruxism. Some physical and/or psychological factors might contribute to it, including:
stress, anxiety and tension
abnormal bite or jaw alignment
illness, nutritional deficiencies or dehydration
What are the signs and symptoms?
The signs vary with the intensity, frequency and nature of the clenching or grinding and might include:
chronic facial pain with tension headaches and neck aches
partners or family can ‘hear’ a grinder
pain on biting
cracks, chips and fractures in teeth
clicking of the jaw, or pain in jaw joints that feels like an earache
teeth are worn flat – often to the dentine
stiff or tight facial, neck or temporal muscles
What are the treatment options?
One option for treatment is to try to remove the causes of the bruxism by using: stress management and relaxation techniques. The damage caused by bruxism might also be repaired with the use of muscle relaxants, pain relievers and massage for muscular facial pain.
Another option is to change the behaviour that causes the bruxism.
If your grinding or clenching occurs during the day you need to become conscious of it and post reminders around your workplace/station reminding you to stop.
Biofeedback is an option mainly for daytime clenchers. Electronic monitors measure the tension in the jaw muscles. Clenchers use this feedback to learn how to relax their muscles.
In severe cases, you might need to be referred to a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) specialist. The TMJ is the joint that enables you to open and cloe your mouth.
Occlusal splint therapy teaches you how to rest your mouth.
What is an occlusal splint?
An occlusal splint is a night guard that is custom made to fit over your upper teeth.
It protects your teeth from further wear and might also protect against their chipping and cracking.
It opens your bite up to remove some pressure from your jaw joints and muscles
It evens out your bite, thus taking the pressure off your teeth. This might improve toothache or pain on chewing.
It might encourage you to stop grinding or clenching.
How can the damage be repaired?
In order to repair any damaged teeth and build up your bite or occlusion we might need to use a combination of fillings, crowns, inlays and possibly Root Canal Therapy (where fractures have extended into the pulp).
In some cases extraction might be necessary if your teeth are badly damaged. A denture or plate, bridges or implants might be used to replace missing teeth and increase the support so as to take pressure off the remaining teeth.