Bruxism is also known as grinding and/or clenching of your teeth. It’s a very common condition that affects approximately 30 million to 40 million children and adults in the U.S.
Signs & Symptoms
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing bruxism:
- Rhythmic contractions of the jaw muscles
- A grinding sound at night, which may disturb the sleep of someone who you share a room with
- Jaw muscles that are tight or painful
- Popping or clicking of the temporomandibular joint
- Long-lasting pain in the face
- Damaged teeth, broken dental fillings and injured gums
- Swelling (occasionally) on the side of your lower jaw caused by clenching
Some experts consider bruxism to be a habit, while others attribute it to one of the following:
- Stress, anxiety, frustration and anger
- A malocclusion, or when the teeth and jaw do not line up correctly
- A symptom of certain rare diseases of the nerves and muscles in the face
- In rare cases, it may be a side effect of some medicines that treat depression. These include Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine).
- A complication of Huntington or Parkinson’s disease
People who grind their teeth may be unaware of the habit because it typically occurs while they sleep. Bruxism can have far-reaching effects on oral health, including tooth wear and the development of TMJ disorder. It is important to talk to your dentist if you think you are experiencing bruxism.
If your bruxism is related to stress, therapy and relaxation technique may help. It may be a good idea to cut down on stimulants, such as tobacco and caffeine.
The simplest solution is to use a professionally made night guard, which prevents the teeth from scraping against each other while you sleep. Your dentist may also have to restore damaged teeth with fillings or crowns to maintain the proper shape and size of the teeth.
Biofeedback can be used for daytime grinders with the use of electronic instruments that measure muscle activity and these people are taught how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too extreme for them. In addition, hypnosis has been studied to help individuals who suffer from sleep bruxism.
People with severe bruxism can break down teeth and damage dental fillings, grinding or clenching the teeth together can cause the outer layers of enamel to wear away, which may cause an increase in tooth sensitivity. Severe bruxism has caused:
- Some cases of jaw dysfunction, also called temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD)
- Unexplained facial pain
- Discomfort when eating, biting or talking