What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical word for the grinding or clenching of the teeth, and it is a common problem in Miami and around the country. People of all ages can develop bruxism, and most grind or clench their teeth subconsciously – even while sleeping – so they don’t become aware of the problem until other issues arise.
Fortunately, a dentist is well equipped to help patients with bruxism. He or she will check for signs during your regular dental exam, and you should tell your dentist if you have any of these symptoms:
- • Teeth grinding or clenching. For those who do this in their sleep, the motion and sound may be enough to awaken their partners.
- • Teeth that are becoming flattened. They could also show signs of fracturing or chipping and in some cases can even become loose.
- • Worn or thinned out tooth enamel which can expose the layers of teeth.
- • Tooth sensitivity, as well as jaw or facial pain.
- • A headache that usually originates around the temples.
- • Cheeks that are raw or sore inside due to chewing.
- • Indentations on the tongue.
- •Anxiety, stress, and tension
- •Earache (due in part because the structures of the temporomandibular joint are very close to the ear canal, and because you can feel pain in a different location than its source; this is called referred pain)
- •Eating disorders
- •Hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity in the teeth
- •Sore or painful jaw
If bruxism is suspected, your dentist will try to determine its cause and will ascertain whether treatment is needed. While the causes of bruxism are not completely clear, the disorder has been linked to emotional triggers like anxiety, stress, aggression or frustration. It can also be due to physical problems like poor alignment of the teeth, acid reflux or sleep apnea. Stimulating substances like tobacco, caffeine and illegal drugs can even increase the risk of bruxism. In addition, diseases such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease can lead to bruxism, as can some rare side effects of psychiatric medications or antidepressants.
Bruxism and TMJ
If bruxism is mild, your dentist may determine that no treatment is needed. In more severe cases, bruxism needs to be treated so that it does not lead to jaw disorders like TMJ, though this relationship is higly contested. TMJ impacts the temporomandibular joints, which are located in front of the ears and “hinge” the jaw and skull together. People with TMJ often experience a clicking sound when opening or closing their mouths. Other signs include the “locking” of the jaw, headaches, a ringing in the ears, and shoulder pain.
There are several approaches a dentist can use to treat bruxism and TMJ in Miami patients. A splint may also help reduce clenching, but some people find that it makes their clenching worse. In others, the symptoms go away as long as they use the splint, but pain returns when they stop or the splint loses its effectiveness over time. If bruxism is due to poor alignment, your dentist can fix those issues through braces or oral surgery. If teeth have been worn down, options like dental crowns can help. There is even a BOTOX® therapy for TMJ called Dentox, which can help ease some of the clenching in the teeth and jaws.
Your dentist may also recommend other specialists in Miami who can provide therapeutic treatments for bruxism. This could include sleep study, stress management, behavior therapy or biofeedback. Unfortunately, no medication has been proven effective for bruxism, so it’s likely your dentist will try one of these other approaches first.
Any Miami resident suffering from bruxism or TMJ is encouraged to speak with a dentist about symptoms and treatment options. There are many remedies available that can manage symptoms and help keep the condition from worsening.