Bruxism is the chronic, involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. It usually occurs during sleep, but may also occur while awake.
The exact cause of bruxism is unknown, but it is believed to be related to:
- Stress and anxiety
- Abnormal alignment of the teeth or jaws
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
- Chronic stress or anxiety
- Aggressive or competitive personality
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol–especially methamphetamines
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Age: 40 or younger; especially common in children
- Family member with bruxism
- Facial or oral trauma
- Use of psychiatric medications, especially antidepressants such as Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac
- Prior serious head injury
Symptoms may include:
- Grinding sounds during sleep
- Teeth sensitive to heat, cold, or brushing
- Tense facial or jaw muscles
- Hairline cracking of the enamel on some teeth
- Sore teeth
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
- Damage to the inside of the cheek (from biting or chewing)
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
The doctor or dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine your teeth and jaw. With bruxism, teeth will have flattened tips, excessive wear, or thin enamel.
Methods of treatment include:Behavioral Treatment
This method focuses on changing behavior through various techniques, such as:
- Stress management
- Relaxation therapy or exercises
Your dentist may recommend a protective mouth appliance, such as a night guard, that can absorb the pressure of constant night grinding.
Medication is only recommended for short-term use. Medications may include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Mild sleeping aids
- Injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) in severe cases
- Novel medications such as clonidine are being explored as alternative treatments for some patients
Bruxism that is not treated may result in gum damage, loss of natural teeth, and jaw-related disorders.
The same methods used to treat bruxism can be used to prevent it.