Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the teeth and typically includes the clenching of the jaw. In most people, bruxism is mild enough not to be a health problem. Bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders.
Some experts view bruxism as nothing more than a habit. It can be a result of the body’s reaction when the teeth do not line up or come together properly. It can also be a symptom of certain rare diseases of the nerves and muscles in the face. In rare cases, bruxism may be a side effect of some medicines that treat depression. These include Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine).
People with severe bruxism can break dental filling or damage their teeth. Rubbing the teeth together can cause the outer layers of enamel to wear away, exposing dentin. This can result in tooth sensitivity. Severe bruxism has been blamed for:
- Some cases of jaw dysfunction, also called temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
- Headaches when you wake up in the morning
- Unexplained facial pain
Do you grind your teeth?
You may be a bruxer if you experience any of the following:
- Rhythmic contractions of the jaw muscles
- A grinding sound at night, which may disturb the sleep of someone who shares a bedroom with you
- A dull morning headache
- Jaw muscles that are tight or painful – This can make it uncomfortable, even painful, to open your mouth wide, especially in the morning
- Long-lasting pain in the face
- Damaged teeth, broken dental fillings and injured gums
- Painful jaw joint
- Swelling (occasionally) on the side of your lower jaw caused by clenching. Chronic clenching exercises the jaw muscles. Like lifting weights, this makes the muscles grow larger. Once you stop clenching, the muscles will shrink and the swelling will go away.
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, see your dentist. He or she can determine if you are a bruxer and how best to treat it.
The treatment of bruxism varies depending on its cause:
- Stress — If your bruxism is stress-related, your dentist or physician may recommend professional counseling, psychotherapy, biofeedback exercises or other strategies to help you relax. You also may receive a prescription muscle relaxant to temporarily ease the spasm in your jaw. You may also be fitted for a custom-made bite plate. If this does not help, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon or to a dentist who has advanced training in head and neck pain.
- Dental problems — If your bruxism is related to tooth problems, your dentist probably will correct tooth alignment. In severe cases, your dentist may need to use onlays or crowns to entirely reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth. The dentist also may make a mouth guard or bite splint that fits your mouth and teeth. This will help prevent further damage to the teeth. In some cases, it may help your teeth and muscles to realign.
- Medicines — If you develop bruxism as a side effect of antidepressant medicines, you have a couple of options. Your doctor may switch you to a different drug or give you another medicine to counteract your bruxism.
Keeping all this in mind, if you or a loved one suffers from this condition it is always best to seek the advice of a dentist from Modern Dental.