If you’re one of those folks who grind their teeth compulsively or clench their jaw repetitively, you likely suffer from a condition called bruxism. Bruxism affects about 10% of the population and can occur while you’re awake or asleep. People often don’t know they have it because 80% of it happens while you’re snoozing!
Bruxism during the day involves repetitive jaw-clenching movements, whereas night-time bruxism involves a teeth-grinding motion.
So if you’re wondering how you can figure out if whatever is ailing you is a result of your teeth grinding or teeth clenching, and you’d like to put a stop to it, then read on my friend read on.
What are The Symptoms of Bruxism?
One of the biggest problems with bruxism, is that it doesn’t just the damage to your teeth, but can impact other parts and functions of your body. It’s sort of like that silly song, “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone…” where your teeth are really connected to your body as a whole.
If you’re grinding in your sleep the disruption to your healthy sleep cycles, impacts your energy levels. If your teeth are super sensitive that can affect what you eat and if you eat. We think you get the point.
So bruxism doesn’t just wear your teeth down, increase tooth sensitivity, or, even in some cases, causes you to lose a tooth it can leave you with one or more of these symptoms:
- Facial or jaw pain
- Morning tension headaches or frequent headaches
- Earaches, tinnitus or vertigo
- Stiff shoulders and neck pain
- Inflamed gums and tooth sensitivity
- Pulpitis or an abscessed tooth (inflamed gums and bacterial infection)
- Broken fillings
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) and swollen glands
- Daytime fatigue and stress
Facial pain from the inflamed masseter muscles can lead to muscle hypertrophy and changing your face shape by forming a larger jaw over time. You might be grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw and noticing issues with your masticatory system (the jaw, teeth, tongue, lips, and cheek) as a result of neurological and psychosocial factors.
What Makes You Want to Brux?
There are many reasons as to why someone might be grinding or clenching their teeth. So let’s go through a few of the most mentioned reasons first.
Stress from work, family, school, relationships, can cause changes in dopamine production in the brain. When this happens, the brain releases less dopamine which affects muscle and motor control. If you have a highly sensitive personality and tend to react to stress with harmful coping mechanisms (like teeth grinding), you might be on the “neuroticism scale.” This leaves you more prone to anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, a depressed mood and loneliness, and bruxing in response to these stressors.
Depression medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase your likelihood of jaw clenching because they also reduce your dopamine availability in the brain and your jaw motor control, so consider asking your doctor to change medications if this is causing you to brux. Those who rely on recreational drugs to cope with stress can also find themselves bruxing and of course, these are poor substitutes for the healthier alternatives of exercise, yoga, and meditation.
Drinking too much caffeine can even cause you to brux, particularly if you down more than 800 mg of coffee (4 big cups) in 24 hours, as can smoking and relying on a poor diet. If you already have untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you’re also more likely to clench and grind your teeth throughout the night as the body responds to the breathing obstruction. Bruxing is the brain’s way of engaging the jaw muscles to remind you to breathe again. Your bruxing can also arise as a result of sleep talking, sleepwalking, insomnia or restless leg syndrome.
The Real Reason You Might Be Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth
If you’ve been reading lists of reasons but you’re still thinking, “No that’s not me.” It’s probably because it’s actually not stress, medication, OSA, or caffeine.
But it might be because your bite is not right.
This might be particularly true for you if you’ve ever had braces before. Straight teeth are one thing, but bringing the way that the teeth fit together in harmony with your facial muscles is another. Physiological dentistry takes into account the joints, muscles, and teeth so that there is harmony and balance.
When that balance is disrupted due to things like braces or the environment (causing mouth breathing and improper facial development), your muscles are constantly trying to find a place to rest & relax.
Treating Bruxism for the Long Haul
Since treatment varies depending on the cause of your bruxism, managing it can involve multiple solutions. You also need to consider if your more interested in: simply preventing more damage from happening while lessening symptoms, or if you’d rather treat the actual cause and fix the issue once and for all.
Here are a few possible solutions that may help prevent further damage & lessen symptoms:
- Wearing a mouth guard or occlusal guard will protect your teeth from further damage as long as you are wearing it.
- Hypnotherapy, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation are all excellent stress management techniques.
- Regular body massages can lessen stress while facial massage lessens jaw clenching.
- Jaw exercises help train your face and jaw muscles to R.E.L.A.X.
- Magnesium supplements can help with jaw motor control as they actively relax the muscles.
And here are a few possible solutions that can help treat the actual cause of a misaligned bite:
- The DNA appliance helps prevent teeth grinding by aligning the upper and lower arches of the jaw.
- Physiological dentistry combined with TENS
- The Fixed Anterior Growth Guidance Appliance (FAGGA)
- Epigentic Orthodontics (braces that use protraction vs. retraction)
- Enamel Replacement Therapy
Our Dentist Can Help
Treating bruxism begins with a diagnosis and making a custom plan to fit your actual needs and goals. Sometimes simple changes to your lifestyle like nutritious diet, adequate sleep, daily exercise and stress management are ways to improve your health and well-being. And other times, you do need help from a highly trained professional.
We always recommend that you come in to be seen by our expert dentist, Dr. Powell, to help spot issues early on before extensive damage is done. Treating tooth sensitivity and bruxism will prevent lasting damage to your mouth (and body). If you notice bruxism symptoms or suspect you grind and clench your teeth and jaw, don’t wait for your biannual checkup. The sooner Dr. Powell can treat your symptoms, the healthier you and your smile will be!
And if you’ve let things go on a little longer than they should, there’s no time like the present. We’ll take good care of you. Give us a call today or simply schedule your visit online.