Prevent Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Do you suffer from painful jaws or
experience headaches in the morning ? Does your spouse
complain that you keep him or her up all night and they
right? Have your teeth become more sensitive to
cold , touch, or other stimuli ? If so you may be one of
the millions of people who unknowingly suffers from
bruxism (tooth grinding).
What is Bruxism ?
Bruxism, commonly known as tooth
grinding, is the the clenching together of the bottom and
upper jaw accompanied by the grinding of the lower set of
teeth with the upper set. Bruxism affects between 10-50%
of the population depending on the particular study
sited. Bruxism is a subconscious behavior so many people
do not realize that they are doing it ! Often it is the
partner who tells them about the nighttime sounds that
their bruxism produces.
Although it can occur during the
waking hours, bruxism most frequently occurs while we
sleep. During sleep, the biting force (the force at which
the jaws clench together) can be up to six times greater
than the pressure during waking hours. Consequently,
significant damage is much more likely to occur with this
The Results of Bruxism
Bruxism can lead to pain and cause
damage to gums and other oral structures. This
Facial Muscles, Headaches, and
The muscles used to chew food are the same ones responsible
for bruxism. Consequently, these muscles often feel sore or
tender in the morning. This may make the jaw feel tight or
may cause pain when the sides of the mouth are touched.
Often this muscle pain is referred meaning that it
manifests itself as a headache, ear-ache, or neck
- Cosmetic Damage
Bruxism can cause the teeth to be ground down becoming
significantly shortened and creating cosmetic
- Sensitive Teeth
As the enamel of the tooth is worn away by bruxism the
underlying dentin layer of the tooth is exposed. This
causes the tooth to become sensitive to cold, pressure, and
- Fractured Teeth and Fillings
The high pressure created from bruxism can fracture teeth
and crack fillings.
- Temporomandibular Joint Damage
Bruxism can cause damage to the temperomandibular joint.
This is the "hinge" which connects the lower jaw to the
upper jaw allowing use to chew and
Bruxism in Children
Tooth grinding is often seen in children. Children grind
their teeth in response to the pain and discomfort of other
ailments such as a colds or ear infections. Commonly, children
grind their teeth to relieve the discomfort of allergies.
Usually bruxism in children is a passing phenomena which they
grow out of with no adverse effects to their teeth.
How to Treat Bruxism
If you suspect that you suffer
from bruxism see your dentist. They can tell you if your
symptoms are in fact due to bruxism. In most cases, they
can create a custom mouth guard for you to wear while you
sleep. The mouth guard takes the punishment that your
teeth would normally endure during your bruxism. This
will minimize the damage associated with
Additionally, your dentist may
help you properly position your teeth and tongue so as to
reduce your bruxism. Reducing alcohol intake is also
advisable since alcohol has been shown to worsen
It is now well known that
stress and anxiety play the major role in causing
bruxism. If you suffer from bruxism try to more
effectively manage the stress in your life. By carefully
monitoring and controlling the stress you can often
dramatically reduce bruxism.
Treatment Approaches to
Bruxism, Thomas, B.A., Blount, B.W., Krumholz, TS.
American Family Physician, 49(7): 1617-22, May 15,
Grinding Down, Blore, D.
Nursing Times, 91(26); 46-7, June 28-July 4,
An Overview of Bruxism and
Its Management, Robert Attanasio, 41(2); 229-241,