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What is bruxism and how do you treat it?

By February 15, 2021 No Comments

Teeth grinding or Bruxism is a condition where you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. This condition can affect people unconsciously when awake or during sleep. Here at Ethos, our treatment coordinators are available to answer any questions you might have before or during your treatment. One of the most common questions our treatment coordinators receive is whether teeth grinding will affect their orthodontic treatment. But before we discuss this, let’s dive into what bruxism/teeth grinding is.

Why is bruxism damaging for your teeth?

Your teeth are not meant to be clenched or in contact all the time. They should only briefly touch each other when you swallow or chew. If your teeth come into contact too often or too forcefully, your tooth enamel can wear down. Without the enamel protecting the inner parts of your teeth, you may begin to experience dental problems.

Mild and light forms of bruxism do not require treatment. However, those experiencing severe forms of bruxism may suffer from jaw disorders, headaches and damaged teeth. In these cases, diagnosis and treatment will be required.

Temporomandibular Joints Disorder (TMD) is commonly linked to bruxism and teeth grinding, if you are keen to find out more about TMD read our blog on the disorder and treatment options.

The core signs and symptoms of bruxism

There is a large list of potential symptoms for teeth grinding; however, the most common include:

  • Flattened, fractured, chipped or loose teeth;
  • Worn enamel causing increased pain and sensitivity;
  • Tried or tight jaw muscles;
  • Dull headaches in your temples; and
  • Sleep disruption from the sound of your teeth grinding.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or have concerns about your oral health, in particular to teeth grinding, see your General Practitioner (GP) or local dentist.

How is bruxism caused?

Health specialists are still not certain on what the exact causes of bruxism are. However, many believe that the condition is triggered by physical, psychological or genetic factors.

Awake bruxism is often linked to heightened emotions, such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration and tension. Some doctors have noted that bruxism is used as a coping strategy or a common habit when concentrating.

Age is also a factor in bruxism, it is most common in young children, but they will often grow out of this habit by adulthood. Doctors have also made the connection between cases of bruxism within families if one member of a family has bruxism, others are more likely to experience symptoms as well.

Some forms of bruxism are considered an uncommon side effect of some medications and substances. This includes some antidepressants, smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, or recreational drugs.

Bruxism has also been associated with some medical disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea and attention-deficit and hyperactivity discord (ADHD).

Does teeth grinding affect my braces?

If you are experiencing teeth grinding before receiving braces, you may feel like the situation gets worse before it gets better. This is likely to occur due to slight irritation or discomfort as your teeth are being realigned. We usually see this shift in the first few weeks after you receive your braces. However, braces are likely to improve your bruxism in the long-term.

Braces are commonly seen as a treatment for bruxism as having a proper bite alignment often translates to fewer jaw issues. If you feel as though your teeth grinding is becoming worse or more intense during your orthodontic treatment, please speak to your treatment coordinator. We can address this issue as soon as possible, and avoid any further damage occurring.

Alternative treatments for bruxism

Depending on the type of bruxism you have or the cause of it, there are several different treatment options available. Apart from braces, there are dental treatments that can be used, including splints and mouth guards, to keep your teeth separated so you cannot physically grind your jaws. Dental corrective treatment involves a dentist reshaping the surfaces of your teeth or attaching crowns to repair the damage done by bruxism.

Medications are currently not considered a very effective treatment for bruxism; however, current options include muscle relaxants for sleep bruxism, anxiety or stress medication, and botox injections for those with severe bruxism. If your teeth grinding is a result of stress or anxiety, a psychologist or counsellor may be able to introduce you to strategies that promote relaxation, such as meditation.

The next step

If you are experiencing teeth grinding or if you are concerned about your jaw alignment, make an appointment with the friendly Ethos Orthodontics team. We can discuss with you whether braces are the best treatment for your bruxism, or we can direct you in the right direction for alternative options.