Bruxism is a habit of grinding or clenching the teeth. Grinding is the process of sliding your teeth back and forth over each other. Clenching is the action of tightly holding the upper and lower teeth together. Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity which commonly occurs with most people at some point in their lives. It can happen at any age, to children or adults. Grinding and clenching usually occur during a person’s sleeping hours, but occasionally they occur during the day.
Bruxism is one of the most commonly known sleep disorders. Chewing is a neuromuscular activity controlled by a subconscious process, but more highly controlled by the brain. During sleep, the subconscious process may become active while the higher control is inactive (asleep), resulting in bruxism. The most common symptoms of bruxism are earaches and headaches, sore jaw, frequent toothaches, worn or cracked teeth and fillings, loose teeth and insomnia. The picture above depicts advanced wear of the upper anterior teeth. The darker areas of the teeth are those where enamel has been ground away and dentin is exposed.
Many people with bruxism wake themselves up in the middle of the night with a loud grinding or clenching sound. Sometimes the sound is so loud that parents or sleep partners can hear it. For others, bruxism may be silent.
Some of the factors that may play a role in bruxism are chronic stress, sleep disorders and an uneven bite. Dr. Torres-Melendez and Dr. Spatz can diagnose bruxism by looking for wear facets on your teeth and assessing related symptoms. Regular dental examinations are important to find damage in the early stages. Drs. Torres-Melendez and Spatz can help you manage bruxism and related symptoms as well as repair the teeth and assist in the prevention of further damage.
Bruxism treatment depends on the individual situation. Your prosthodontist may recommend: stress reduction, a protective occlusal guard worn over your teeth while sleeping, medication for pain and/ or muscle spasms and restorations on your teeth to repair damage done.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
Gum Recession – Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession and tooth loss. Grinding teeth can damage the soft tissue and bone directly and lead to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria are able to colonize and cause further loss of the supporting bone.
Facial Pain – Grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to facial muscle pain and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
Occlusal Trauma – The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to tooth fractures. If left unrestored, these fractured teeth may require endodontic treatment or extraction.
Arthritis – In the most severe cases, bruxism can lead to damage and painful arthritis in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs). These joints enable the jaw to open and close smoothly.
Though there is no one cure for bruxism, there are a variety of devices and services available from our office to help treat bruxism.
Mouthguard/Occlusal guard – An acrylic mouthguard can be designed and fabricated from dental impressions to protect your teeth from the abrasive grinding action of bruxism. This acrylic appliance fits over your upper or lower teeth and prevents the teeth from touching. It covers the teeth and protects them from the excessive wear caused by bruxism. Occlusal guards are expected to be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent further tooth damage.
A mouthguard will also protect the new restorations on those teeth that were worn down by bruxism. You must always bring the occlusal guard to your Recare appointments. In this way, we can professionally disinfect the appliance, inspect for damage to the acrylic and evaluate your bite with the appliance in your mouth.