What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the phenomenon of subconscious clenching of the jaw muscles and grinding of the teeth, and comes in two forms - waking bruxism and sleeping bruxism.
If you have waking bruxism, you may be partially aware you are doing it - once you realise, you’re more likely to stop, before your mind is occupied with other things and you return to the clenching and grinding. For this reason, the discomfort caused by waking bruxism tends to worsen over the course of the day, in the form of tooth ache, jaw ache, headaches and muscular pain (around the temples where the jaw muscle meets the skull). Sensitivity and gum tenderness are also common.
If you only suffer from sleep bruxism, the symptoms are likely to lessen over the course of the day, as your jaw and teeth are given a rest from the night time grinding. If you live with a partner, family or friends, the chances are they’ve already told you about it, perhaps after hearing the noises whilst you sleep, but for patients who live alone, this might be something which goes unnoticed for a while.
There are also those who suffer from a combination of the two.
If allowed to persist and worsen, bruxing can eventually lead to severe wear and damage to the teeth - there are images online of individuals who’ve worn their teeth all the way down to the pulp, no doubt in constant agony and requiring drastic restorative work.
The causes for Bruxism are still up for debate, with links to sleep, muscular, neurological and psychiatric disorders, as well as a side effect of drug use, especially stimulants like cocaine or ecstasy.
There are currently no treatments that can completely eliminate bruxism. Mouthguards can be prescribed, and dental restoration can be used to correct signs of damage, but the constant high pressure and wear and tear can cause these remedies to fail and require replacement quite quickly. Additionally the presence of a foreign object in the mouth during sleep may also be a trigger for the patient to ‘brux’ more than normal, accelerating the wear affects and muscle pain.
Ways to reduce Bruxism
Whilst there is no quick fix for Bruxism, getting a diagnosis will be the first step towards safeguarding your smile and lessening the damage.
Here are a few ways to alleviate Bruxism:
- Try regular jaw exercises, especially when you catch yourself clenching during the day - stretch the jaw muscles by carefully and slowly opening your mouth as wide as you can without hurting yourself and repeating it 10 times, a few times a day.
- If your grinding is especially bad during the daytime, holding something small between your front teeth could be a good deterrent for biting down all the way, such as a toothpick, pen or other similar item. Whilst not an ideal habit to get into (especially with the transfer of day-to-day germs to your mouth), it might give your teeth and jaw a very important rest and slow down the wear and tear
- Find ways to relax - try relaxation techniques if they work for you, but if not, set aside time to participate in hobbies and passion projects. Read if you like to read, book the holiday you’ve put off for months, dance until late next weekend. Unwinding and de-stressing doesn’t always mean slowing down; sometimes it means speeding up in a direction you want to go in
For the after-effects of night time Bruxism:
- take painkillers like paracetamol for pain or ibuprofen for inflammation
- use a cool compress or ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes to help reduce jaw pain or swelling
- Visit your dentist for regular health and hygiene check-ups, and see if there are any prescription gum-shields or other tools which might work for you
If you feel like you may suffer from waking or nocturnal Bruxism, book online today or call us on 0161 820 3477 to schedule your appointment with one of our dentists, so they can help you learn more about your condition and how to lessen the effects. They may have tips or treatment options not listed here.