Bruxism, or also known as teeth grinding, is a condition when people grind and clench their teeth and jaw. Usually, people are not aware of this condition, because they grind their teeth during the night. In the morning they wake up with headaches, earache, pain in the temporomandibular joint, pain in the muscles, teeth disorders and more. There are two types of bruxism, awake and sleep bruxism.
The causes of bruxism can vary and include stress and anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea, drinking alcohol regularly, smoking and more. All of these factors are in some way associated with teeth grinding. When it comes to the awake bruxism, these patients usually clench and grind when they are under a lot of stress and pressure. That can happen at work, or during any other stressful period. Psychological factors are the ones that are very influential for this type of bruxism. Fear, anxiety, tension are all connected to awake clenching and grinding. The sleep bruxism is also connected to the same causes, but it’s not completely clear what exactly causes it in most cases. Other factors include age (often appears with young kids, but it goes away), aggressive people, genetics, certain medication (antidepressants, drug use, alcohol), mental diseases and more.
The common symptoms of teeth grinding and clenching might not be obvious right away. A number of patients are not even aware that they are suffering from this condition. They are often affected by sleep, so when they wake up and notice symptoms they are not sure why they appear. The usual ones include grinding and clenching, that can be very loud. That is why the partners of patients often realize there is something going on. They either hear a loud noise or it wakes them up from sleep. Other symptoms include jaw and joint pain, a visible abrasion on the teeth surfaces, the posterior teeth are flat on the occlusal surfaces and also the frontal teeth are shorter. The teeth can suffer from chips and breaks. If the bruxism progresses, the enamel will wear out, and there will be exposed dentin. Some patients even reach that level where they suffer from an exposed pulp. Their teeth are extremely sensitive, especially to cold and hot drinks and water. Sometimes they can’t completely open the mouth because they feel severe pain in the joint. These patients have larger masticatory muscles that can affect their appearance. Headaches can appear very often.
If the bruxism is mild, sometimes it does not require treatment. But with severe cases, with many symptoms treatment is necessary. The treatment includes wearing mouth guards during the night or mouth splints. They will prevent great pressure on the temporomandibular joint and teeth wear. Sometimes this needs to be combined with muscle-relaxing therapies. The best way to start the treatment is to determine the cause. If that factor is eliminated, the patient will most likely stop grinding and clenching. When the bruxism appears in an early age, the chances are it will soon disappear. The best way to know is to visit a dentist and get a professional consult.