It is true to say that a certain amount of tooth grinding especially if it is transient, can be considered normal but it is when this becomes more frequent and chronic that problems can develop. Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding and severe cases can have a serious impact on a sufferer’s oral health and wellbeing. Here we will look at what bruxism actually is , the signs and symptoms, what causes it as well as the ways that tooth grinding and tooth clenching can be treated.
Bruxism or tooth grinding can be described as either consciously or unconsciously the teeth are clenched or ground together. This is often something that happens when we are asleep and when we are unable to consciously stop ourselves. It may also be something that is done daily if a tooth grinding habit has been formed such as nail biting, pen tip biting and other parafunctional habits.
There is no doubt that teeth are strong but under the assault of long-term bruxism, damage is inevitable. It is important therefore, that bruxism is addressed by a practitioner before the situation becomes irreparably damaging.
In most cases, people who grind their teeth are not even aware that they have bruxism. As this is something that most often happens in the times that we are asleep it may be a partner or anyone that ever slept nearby who comments that you are grinding your teeth in your sleep. During a routine dental exam your dentist might mention that there are signs of grinding and ask you further questions about symptoms and history of clenching and grinding as well as lifestyle.
Some of the symptoms might include:
A dull headache that is more or less constant
Your jaw feeling tender when you wake
A grinding noise from clenching teeth or grinding them while you sleep (usually reported by a partner!)
A sensation of some tightness or pain in the muscles of the jaw
Pain that is regularly felt anywhere in the face, on waking
Swelling of the lower jaw
Neck and shoulder strain
Sharp edges of your anterior teeth felt by your tongue some mornings
Broken cusps of back teeth and recurring fractured fillings
Sensitivity to cold on certain teeth
Scalloping of the tongue or along the inside of the cheeks
Teeth grinding can be seen as a habit or muscle memory often in response to anxiety or stress in our lives.
If you have missing teeth or teeth that are uneven, crooked or if you suffer from an abnormal bite these can also be precursors to tooth grinding.
Historical trauma to the jaw such as a fall or a hit in contact sports can also lead to grinding.
Some studies have shown a link between bruxism and certain sleep disorders.
Some medications can cause teeth grinding or teeth clenching as well as some lifestyle factors such as the use of recreational drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
It is therefore important that once diagnosed and the origin of the clenching and grinding established you investigate the treatment options available. Change in lifestyle and removal of stress triggers might be a starting point in order to address bruxism.
If tooth clenching or tooth grinding is left untreated, apart from the symptoms mentioned above, there can be other serious consequences for the teeth.
These can include things like permanent pain in the jaw, worn down and in severe cases, broken teeth. Exposed areas of the teeth at the gumilne margins can also be signs of clenching and lead to sensitivity to hot and cold at the neck of the tooth.
Apart from suffering the effects of loss of sleep or poor quality of sleep, you might develop chronic headaches or earache (tinnitis) or even temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD is a condition sometimes also referred to as myofascial pain disorder where the muscles used for chewing, between the base of the skull and the jaw become painful, or the jaw clicks or pops. This is not normally a serious condition but can affect the ability to eat and may require treatment if it is persistent.
Most bruxism is episodal meaning it is triggered by specific events like stress, change in routine, travel etc.
There are several options for treating teeth grinding such as:
Your dentist can fit a mouth guard or a mouth splint and these can prove a great help. A mouth guard or splint will protect your teeth as you sleep, against the worst effects for tooth grinding. However a mouth guard or splint will not necessarily prevent the grinding and to tackle the root cause of what is making you grind your teeth you would be advised to seek some specialised stress management.
If your tooth grinding has developed because you are stressed then you could try some stress management measures and behavioural therapies such as
Counselling and muscle relaxants that can be prescribed by the doctor/dentist can be a good start in tackling this problem. If you know what it is that is making you stressed then you could try to take a break from it, and see if the tooth grinding or tooth clenching improves. If you cannot take that break then it might be a good idea to visit your doctor/dentist and talk over what the best way to deal with your stress will be. There are other things you can try such as:
Reducing your caffeine intake. There are some foods that we consume regularly, like coffee, chocolate and colas that all contain caffeine a known stimulant. As a first step you could try cutting these out for a while to see if you tooth grinding or clenching does reduce.
Bruxism has been proved to become more intense when alcohol has been consumed. Another step you could take is to avoid drinking alcohol that may do a lot to help with your tooth grinding and tooth clenching.
Get any dental problems fixed Make sure that your mouth and teeth are healthy and free of misaligned or cracked teeth. See your dentist on a regular basis because keeping your teeth in good shape can help to reduce tooth grinding.
Re-Train yourself It is possible to retrain yourself so that you do not grind or clench your teeth. One useful exercise is to place the tip of a pencil or the tip of your tongue between your teeth and hold it in a cycle of three to four 2-minute holds. This will encourage the muscles of your jaw to relax. Try doing this before you go to bed each night.
Although there are many options for treating the symptoms, and these can be a great relief to a sufferer of bruxism, actually treating the cause of the condition is the best way to tackle it and stop the problem for good. A new and revolutionary method which is fast gaining top spot in the fight against tooth grinding and clenching is called Cerezen.
Cerezen is a unique and pioneering medical device that has been developed to effectively treat TMD and all the associated symptoms that occur with this condition such as teeth grinding, jaw pain as well as teeth clenching and muscle and headaches.
Cerezen is a clinically effective device that is custom made to fit the individual ear. The Cerezen device can be worn at any time; day or night with the recommended wear time being 16 hours in every 24. The devices themselves are very discreet and because they are custom made for each patient, they are comfortable to wear.
For the treatment of the conditions that are often collectively known as Temporomandibular Disorders or TMD, the devices which comprise of two custom made hollow 3D inserts, are introduced and sit comfortably in each of the ear canals which is the closest point of access to the temporomandibular joint.
When your jaw moves, your ear canals will automatically open and close. As this part of the ear canal is very close to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), this is the perfect area to place the Cerezen device so that it can target the source of any symptoms.
When you have customised Cerezen devices inserted into your ear canals, they will keep the shape of the ear canal when it is in the position of the open jaw. This is because of the 3D printed rigid material that makes this possible and that will then encourage the jaw to return to a more relaxed position that in turn will provide very welcome symptom relief.
A relatively new way to address the origin of clenching and grinding is the use of botox into the masseter muscles (muscles of mastication). By injecting measured amounts of botulinum toxin into either or both jaw muscles the clench and ability to grind is found to lessen over the course of treatment, sometimes requiring 2 or 3 courses of treatment to achieve alleviation of symptoms. Since botox is not permanent, the treatment must be repeated every 3-5 months on average but is a good option should you not wish to wear any device either in the mouth or in the ears.
Once injected, over the course of a few days the botulinum toxin infiltrates into the muscles and interrupts the contraction of the jaw muscles leaving the clenching or grinding power greatly diminished.
Botox is not permanent and should the patient at any time not want to continue treatment they simply do not repeat injections and the muscles will regain function.
Indeed they do!
When a parent looks in on their sleeping child, they really want to hear the sounds of deep even breaths and imagine their child is having sweet dreams with easy breathing and maybe an occasional contented sigh. But for some parents a visit to the children’s bedroom comes with the very disturbing and grating sound of clenching and grinding teeth. This is actually quite common in children with two to three out of ten children being reported as suffering from grinding or clenching their teeth or jaws. The good news is that most will outgrow the phase. The tooth grinding that children exhibit will usually occur during deep sleep and can also develop when they are stressed. Hyperactive children are known to have a high incidence of nocturnal grinding.
Experts are divided in why they think that bruxism becomes a problem in children. In some cases, grinding might be the result of the top and bottom teeth not being in perfect alignment. In other children tooth grinding or tooth clenching might be a response to pain, maybe from an earache or when they are teething. It is thought that children may grind their teeth as a way of easing pain in the same way as they may rub a muscle that was sore. These fairly common causes of tooth grinding are the ones that will usually be outgrown.
Stress is another cause of tooth grinding and is usually caused by anger or nervous tension. If a child is worried about a test at school or a change in routine, maybe a parental split or a new brother or sister or even just arguing with his or her parents and siblings, this can be stress enough to start an episode of jaw or teeth clenching or teeth grinding.
Hyperactive kids also often have bruxism. And it is also true to say that kids with other medical conditions like cerebral palsy or those who are taking certain medicines might also develop bruxism.
The effects of bruxism. Many cases of bruxism are undetected and give rise to no ill effects. Sometimes however, it can come with earaches and headaches even migraines, although, as in adults, it's often more annoying to other family members who have to hear the sound of grinding teeth.
The cost of tooth grinding devices varies according to what you use and whether or not it has to be made for you, such as a customised mouth splint or guard. A night guard that you can purchase over the Internet can cost about £35. Some custom made mouth guards start with you taking your own impression and sending it off to have the guard manufactured and with offers this can come in at about £50-60. NHS dental work to produce mouth guards comes under band 3 of their charges at £244. The NHS can help with other aspects of treating the cause of tooth grinding and clenching such as counselling. A good place to start is with your doctor who will be able to tell you of the referral options for you, in connection to your bruxism.
The Cerezen device that was mentioned earlier is available from £499 per pair of customised ear canal devices. In a recent article in the Daily Mail a reporter who had been a severe bruxism sufferer tried the devices and was very impressed with the results.
Botox for clenching and grinding costs anywhere from £245-£450 each session. This treatment requires regular maintenance every 3-5 months.
We hope that you have found this guide helpful. If you suffer from or think that your child or someone else in your family is suffering from this condition then there is a lot of help available. Start with your dentist or doctor and then look at the options that are available to you. The treatment you choose will be dependent on the severity of the tooth grinding or clenching. You may have thought that it was something that you just had to put up with, but left untreated bruxism can lead to more serious problems with your teeth.