Bruxism is defined as the habitual motion of grinding the teeth. This can sometimes happen during the day, if you’re completely absorbed in some other activity, but it is most common at night, when your subconscious is running free. Because it most often happens when a person is sleeping, it’s been dubbed as a sleeping disorder.
Basically, bruxism is a habit of your body, not really you. When you’re dazing off into space or when you’re slumbering peacefully, your body will set your teeth and jaw into motion with grinding or clenching of the jaw. This can wear down and cause damage to your teeth, but may not be serious enough to notice.
What Causes Bruxism?
Bruxism can be caused by a number of triggers. It can be caused by stress, trauma, allergic reactions andseveral medical ailments. Sometimes eliminating the trigger will get rid of the bruxism, but not always. Because bruxism is a habit, your body may not be as quick to shed it as it was to start it. If there’s noticeable abrasion on your teeth, your dentist will be sure to let you know and will most likely discuss what it could be. The only problem is that there are several ways your teeth can be worn down, making it difficult to determine if the damage is caused by bruxism.
The best way to test for bruxism is measuring the electrical signals that are sent down to your jaw and mouth while you’re sleeping. This can be tested in a sleep lab, where they will monitor your sleeping patterns to determine if you have a sleeping disorder. Bruxism can also be diagnosed with the use of a biofeedback headband, which records how many clenching incidents you have per night as well as the total length of time you had clenching incidents. It helps get an idea of how severe the bruxism is and how much of it is grinding or clenching.
How to Treat Bruxism
In most cases, treatment isn’t needed, as bruxism doesn’t always develop into a severe case. If there isn’t any present or potential problematic damage, treatment is unnecessary. But, should the damage be bad enough, there are a few ways to go about treating it, sometimes depending on the situation and cause of the bruxism.
- Mouth Guards: You could easily purchase a mouth guard over the counter or you could have a custom mouth guard made by your dentist. It can help protect your teeth from abrasion and damage, but, over time, they can dislodge from their proper placement. In some cases, they can also worsen a person’s bruxism.
- Splints: Splints are a dental appliance most often made of hard acrylic and fit snuggly on your upper and lower teeth. They’re a little more expensive than mouth guards and are made in either the dental office or laboratory. Your dentist can determine if splints are necessary for your bruxism and if they’re they best option for you and your situation.
- Stress Management: If you’ve determined that your bruxism is caused by stress, you may be able to better your bruxism by seeking professional counseling or participating in activities to reduce stress. Exercise and meditation are helpful practices that will reduce anxiety and stress, which may also reduce the severity of your bruxism.
- Behavior Therapy: As soon as you’re diagnosed with bruxism, you may be able to train your body to break the habit by constantly practicing the proper position for your mouth and jaw. Whenever you can, focus on letting your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth with your teeth slightly apart and your lips closed. It can help your body stop clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth habitually. When you’re in for your next dental checkup, go ahead and ask your dentist what the best position is for your mouth and jaw.
- Biofeedback: Biofeedback can help you change your body’s habit through a series of monitoring procedures and equipment that will help you learn how to conquer your body’s involuntary actions. This is especially helpful if you’re having difficulty breaking the habit yourself, giving you the extra push you need to stop grinding your teeth.
- Medication and Botox: There aren’t really any medications that can help with bruxism. A muscle relaxant may help, but it’s best to talk to your doctor about it to be sure it’s a proper treatment for your bruxism. Sometimes, bruxism is a side effect of other medications and your doctor may prescribe an alternative medication to stop your bruxism. Botox have been seen to help people who have severe cases of bruxism, but it requires more research to be confirmed as a proper and effective treatment.