Do you feel soreness in your facial muscles and jaw joints when you wake up every morning? Do you think that your teeth have become sensitive and mobile? If the answer to the above is yes, you may be grinding your teeth excessively during the daytime, while sleeping, or both. But you don’t have to worry; you are not alone. According to the Bruxism Association, teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, affects 8-10% of the British population, most common among 25-44-year-olds. While the habit of grinding teeth can be detrimental to your teeth and oral health, the good news is that bruxism can be easily diagnosed and treated. This article explains everything you need to know about bruxism – diagnosis, causes, and treatment. So, read on to find out more.
Bruxism in individuals is most commonly identified by dentists and orthodontists based on patient symptoms and findings of routine clinical checkups. For example, patients who have a habit of grinding their teeth often have sore jaws and facial muscles. Besides, dentists find signs of teeth grinding during routine clinical examinations, which typically include:
Perhaps, the most conclusive diagnostic method for bruxism, according to the Sleep Foundation, is polysomnography. This is a diagnostic test that is designed to determine your overnight sleep pattern. However, polysomnography is time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, it is not routinely performed, and clinical examinations are usually sufficient for diagnosing bruxism. Besides polysomnography, other home-based monitoring tests can also be performed, but they are less accurate.
The treatment of bruxism involves eliminating the underlying cause. This is usually done in two phases. In the first phase, your dentist will give you appliances like nightguards to prevent further damage to your teeth. Meanwhile, they will diagnose the underlying issue and perform specific treatments to eliminate it.
As discussed earlier, orthodontists treat bruxism by treating the underlying cause. If bruxism occurs due to an imbalanced bite, dentists or orthodontists typically use appliances known as occlusal splints. According to the Bruxism Foundation, these appliances are the treatment of choice as they reduce the grinding noise and protect the underlying teeth from further damage. The occlusal splints reduce muscle activity associated with night-time bruxism.
However, these appliances are used for symptomatic treatment and do not address the underlying issue. To address teeth misalignment issues that cause grinding, dentists may perform orthodontic treatment to realign the teeth. If the misalignment stems from jaw misalignment, then orthognathic surgery may be needed. Another type of appliance, called the mandibular advancement device (MADs), can also treat bruxism and sleep apnoea. Sometimes, behavioural therapy is also required for patients who grind their teeth due to excessive stress or anxiety.
In some instances, bruxism can also be related to sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea. In this type of apnoea, patients have several “cycles” of teeth grinding, along with other symptoms like difficulty breathing and suddenly waking up from sleep. Another associated symptom, according to the National Health Service (NHS), is sleep paralysis – a transient situation in which one is unable to move or sleep while awake or sleeping,
Your dentist will treat bruxism by diagnosing and removing the underlying cause. If the reason is tooth misalignment, then your dentist will treat it permanently with orthodontic treatment. More complex cases involving jaw misalignment are usually treated with orthognathic surgery. This type of surgery is performed to optimally realign the jaws to improve dental function and treat teeth grinding.
There are several ways to treat sleep bruxism. If you feel that you grind your teeth during sleep, you should visit your dentist without delay. They will perform a clinical examination and run tests to determine the underlying cause. Then, based on their fundings, they will prepare a treatment plan for you, sometimes in consultation with your doctor or behavioural therapists. Depending on the issue, they will fix it either through orthodontic treatment, splints, advancement devices, sleep hygiene improvement, or behavioural therapy.
According to the American Sleep Foundation, night guards are appliances that are worn over the teeth. These appliances prevent the underlying teeth from excessive wear and pressure caused by tooth grinding. Typically, night guards are the first appliances to be given by dentists to bruxism patients to prevent further tooth damage and avoid complications like tooth sensitivity, jaw muscles and joint problems and tooth decay.
Jaw clenching, like bruxism, can also have harmful effects on your oral health. The best way to prevent yourself from jaw clenching is to do jaw and facial muscle relaxation exercises, as advised by your dentist. You should also wear a night guard while sleeping to prevent your teeth from excessive wear and accidental fracture. In addition, your dentist may advise diet and lifestyle changes to decrease stress or anxiety.
Tooth grinding can have a severely damaging effect on your oral health and physical being. However, the good news is that bruxism can be treated with simple treatments. If you or a loved one suffers from the habit of teeth clenching or grinding, don’t ignore it; let us help them prevent their teeth and smile.
So, book an e-consultation appointment with us today and get a free estimate from us upon full completion. At 128 Harley Dental Suite, we are there to take care of all your dental needs.
Dr. Stefan Abela
BChD, MFDS, RCS Eng, MSc, MORTH RCS Ed, AHEA, FDS Orth RCS Ed
Stefan is a Consultant in Orthodontics at one of the most prestigious London teaching hospitals; Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust.
Stefan is also a specialist in Orthodontics and is registered on the General Dental Council (GDC) specialist list. Stefan qualified as a dental surgeon in 2003 and underwent further training in various specialties including restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry, oral medicine and complex oral and maxillofacial surgery including the management of facial trauma.