What is Bruxism?

According to the Canadian Sleep Society, nighttime bruxism affects 8% of the adult population and 13% of children. But it doesn’t just affect people as they sleep either. What is bruxism and what can be done about it?

Grinding Teeth

Clenching or grinding your teeth during the day and/or at night is the widely accepted definition of bruxism. Most people grind or clench their teeth occasionally but bruxism is the ongoing ‘habit’ of doing so.
Awake bruxism is when someone involuntarily clenches their teeth or braces their jaw as a reaction to some kind of stimuli, such as stress or anxiety.
Sleep bruxism is when someone grinds their teeth when they are asleep. This is rhythmic and automatic, the result of sustained jaw muscle contractions. It is rare for awake bruxism to include grinding teeth.

What Causes Bruxism?Teeth clenching

There are many reasons why bruxism becomes a problem. For example, you may find when you are stressed, anxious or have disrupted sleep, that both awake and sleep bruxism is a problem. It may also be possible that misaligned or missing teeth could also be a contributing factor.
The problem is two-fold: as well as damaging your teeth, jaw ache and headaches, it is almost impossible for someone with bruxism to stop, simply because they are not aware they are doing it at the time it is happening.
Many people who suffer from bruxism will suffer headaches and earache, as well as pain in the teeth or jaw. Some sufferers also report heightened tooth sensitivity too.

The Effects of Bruxism on Dental Health

The movement of your jaw is powerful – now imagine the grinding or clenching process when you are not in control. It is a forceful movement between your teeth and can lead to significant dental problems.
Prolonged bruxism leads to cracked, chipped, broken or loose teeth. It can also lead to damage of the temporomandibular joint of the jaw.

How Do You Know if You Grind or Clench Your Teeth?

By regularly visiting your dentist, your dental health is constantly assessed. Your dentist may notice uneven wear of your teeth and you may suffer from dull, niggling headaches. Add to this jaw pain or even an aching neck, and you soon realize that bruxism may be the root cause.
As with most medical issues, diagnosing bruxism early limits the damage to your teeth and mouth.

Dealing with Bruxism

Your dentist can help you deal with bruxism, preventing further damage to your teeth as well as offering treatment to repair damaged teeth;

  • If you clench your teeth whilst you are awake, try to become more aware of this and when it happens. Make a conscious decision to unclench and relax your jaw, keeping your teeth apart during the day.
  • If stress is a trigger for clenching or grinding your teeth, find a stress-relieving activity that works for you, such as exercise, listening to music, reading etc.
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake before bed promotes a better night sleep, making nighttime bruxism less likely.
  • Misaligned or missing teeth can be a cause of bruxism – see your dentist about dental treatment.
  • A custom-fitted mouthguard can also be worn at night. This guard will protect your teeth from nighttime bruxism, limiting further damage. They can also help to absorb the noise of grinding your teeth, a welcome respite for your partner!

Getting Help

Bruxism is symptomatic of other issues, from problem teeth to sleep apnea, as well as other sleep disorders and emotional issues.
Your dentist is an important part of the treatment of bruxism, especially in repairing any damage to your teeth and preventing further dental problems with a custom-fitted mouthguard.
If you suffer from bruxism or suspect you grind your teeth in your sleep, why not make an appointment to see a member of our team?