What is bruxism?
Bruxism is a problem in which you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. You may
clench and grind your teeth during the day. Or, at night while you sleep (sleep bruxism).
You may not even realize you have it. Signs and symptoms vary, and can include:
Chipped or cracked teeth
Overly sensitive teeth
Tense facial and jaw muscles
Dislocation of the jaw
Locking of the jaw
Wearing away of the tooth enamel, exposing the underlying dentin (inside of the tooth)
A popping or clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Damage to the inside of the cheek
Wear facets (flat smooth areas created on the biting surfaces of the teeth as they
are rubbed together repeatedly)
The symptoms of bruxism may look like other conditions or health problems. See a dentist
or your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment.
What causes bruxism?
Oral health specialists often point to too much stress and certain personality types
as causes of bruxism. Bruxism often affects people with nervous tension such as anger,
pain, or frustration. It also affects people with aggressive, hurried, or overly competitive
tendencies. There is some proof that in some people, bruxism is caused by an imbalance
in brain neurotransmitters. Also, some medicines such as the antidepressants fluoxetine
and paroxetine can cause bruxism.
How is bruxism diagnosed?
During regular dental visits, your dentist will examine your teeth for signs of bruxism
such as flattened tips of the teeth. If signs and symptoms are present, your dentist
or other healthcare provider will watch the condition over the next few visits before
treatment is started.
Treatment for bruxism
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
How old you are
Your overall health and medical history
How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Your opinion or preference
In most cases, bruxism can be successfully treated. Treatment may involve:
Behavior changes. You may be taught how to rest your tongue, teeth, and lips properly. You may also learn
how to rest the tongue upward to relieve discomfort on the jaw while keeping the teeth
apart and lips closed.
Mouthguard. You may be fitted for a plastic mouth guard that you can wear at night to absorb the
force of biting. It can be worn in the day if you grind your teeth while awake. This
mouthguard may help prevent future damage to the teeth and aid in changing behavior.
Biofeedback. Biofeedback involves an electronic instrument that measures the amount of muscle activity
of the mouth and jaw. It then signals you when there is too much muscle activity so you
can take steps to change that behavior. This is especially helpful for daytime bruxism.
More research is needed to develop a treatment program for those who clench during
Medicine. Some medicines may be helpful in regulating the neurotransmitters. Changing medicines
may be needed if antidepressant medicines are found to be the cause of bruxism.