Bruxism – one of the worst silent killers of the dental world. Known commonly as an involuntary grinding of the teeth, bruxism is an issue millions of people deal with daily. It can happen while driving your car, while at work, or worse, while you sleep. Many who experience bruxism are unaware of it because it happens so naturally. You could have a sudden realization during the day, or wake up with a tight feeling in your jaw. Either way, these experiences are commonly disregarded while you carry on with your day.
If left alone, though, bruxism can develop into a variety of serious issues. Worn down molars and damaged enamel are two of the earliest pieces of evidence that you clench or grind your teeth. With time, those suffering from bruxism can develop aches in their temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Abusing this joint, which connects your jaw to your skull, can lead to issues such as headaches and lockjaw. Superficially, when left alone bruxism can lead to a wider face. The continued tension builds jaw muscle and causes a face to widen.
What can cause Bruxism?
Overall, doctors are unsure as to how bruxism starts. While cases may share a few variables, they can differ on others. Some individuals may experience a single variable and begin clenching or grinding. Others may experience every variable without ever suffering from bruxism. Some of the most frequently causes include;
one of the most common issues that lead to bruxism is an excess of stress in daily life. Stress affects millions of adults every day, approximately 8 in 10. While stress most frequently leads to daytime clenching and grinding, it is not uncommon for an overly stressed individual to experience sleep bruxism.
Side-effects of Medication
A small number of SSRIs, or Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, can cause bruxism as a side effect. SSRIs, one of the most common forms of antidepressants, function by reducing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Products such as Prozac and Zoloft reduce dopamine in exchange for higher levels of seratonin. One of the functions of dopamine, though, is to aid in motor control and muscle movement. This reduction has a chance at leading to frequent clenching and grinding in certain individuals. Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat ADHD, is also known to cause bruxism due to the nature of amphetamines.
Known as the most widely used drug, caffeine is treasured for its ability to increase energy levels when consumed. By increasing levels of adrenaline in the bloodstream, and then increasing heart rate, caffeine provides excess energy when necessary. When unnecessary though, such as before going to bed, caffeine can lead to an excess of energy in the body. This results in the body trying to burn energy in ways such as the clenching of jaw muscles.
Excess Alcohol / Nicotine
While other factors have been based on chemical imbalances, excess drinking and smoking can affect an individual’s sleep cycle. A poor sleep cycle can lead to bruxism on its own, but can be exacerbated through the possibility of developing a sleep disorder. Issues like sleep apnea, which itself diminishes the quality of sleep, has been frequently associated with bruxism.
How can I prevent or stop my bruxism?
There is no absolute cure to bruxism. Since it is rooted in a variety of causes, the only way to prevent or stop bruxism is to reduce these factors. It can, though, be slowly reduced until it is no longer an issue. There are a variety of ways to reduce the severity of bruxism. Some of the most common aids include;
Since stress is one of the most common inducers of bruxism, reducing stress is key in prevention. While stress can never truly be eliminated, medical professionals unanimously advocate for exercise in managing stress. Studies show that even five minutes of aerobic exercise can lower levels of stress. Benefits of exercise also include improved mood, sleep cycles, and self-esteem.
Warm Baths Before Bed
It sounds like a simple solution, but that is because it is a simple solution. Taking a warm bath or shower before bed envelops the body in warm, soothing water that can relax muscles. Paying special attention to jaw muscles by slipping a little lower in the tub can increase these effects.
The act of relaxing the mind and body through positive thought has become increasingly popular in recent years. While exercise relaxes the body, mindfulness relaxes the mind and reduces negative, stress inducing thoughts. Mindfulness is arguably the easiest solution to introduce to a daily routine, and when paired with exercise and warm baths, it could be particularly effective in preventing bruxism.
Avoid Caffeine / Alcohol / Nicotine / Certain Medications Before Bed
Reducing the causes of bruxism is the most straightforward yet difficult solution for night time grinding and clenching. Caffeine and nicotine are two of the most commonly addicted substances. Alcohol is most frequently consumed in the hours before bed time. Reducing the intake of these substances, or finding an alternative to them, could significantly reduce chances of bruxism. Medication could be impossible to change, but a variety of medications have more dental-friendly alternatives. For instance, Buspar has been found to function similar to Zoloft but without bruxism inducing side-effects.
Stop chewing things that are not food
By chewing things other than food, jaw muscles can learn to clench passively. After a day of chewing on things like pen lids or toothpicks, jaw muscles tend to replicate the same actions while sleeping. Reducing these habits, especially nail chewing, allows the jaw to relax throughout the night.
The most extreme but effective way of treating bruxism is the injection of botox into the masseter muscles that control the jaw. Botox functions by relaxing the muscles functioning in bruxism. This has a high likelihood of relieving the effects of clenching and grinding throughout the day.
Using a night guard
The best way to protect teeth in the midst of bruxism is to use a night guard. Similar to a sports mouthguard, a night guard provides a barrier between clenched or grinding teeth throughout the night. Visiting a dentist is highly recommended as store bought night guards can actually begin to damage teeth. Prolonged use of store bought guards can a change in bite shape and lead to TMJ problems.
At a certain point, though, bruxism should be assessed by a medical professional. While these ideas can help prevent bruxism, or improve pre-existing bruxism, continued grinding or clenching can become problematic. Located just outside of Barrie, Stroud Dental is home to a team of dental professionals who you can trust with your oral health.
If you are concerned about bruxism, Dr. Kafka and Dr. Peleg can assess your situation and offer professional advice to keep your teeth strong and healthy. If you are simply looking to change dental offices, we have a variety of services offered for our clients. Stroud Dental offers night guard moulding for your teeth, and direct billing so your insurance can deal with the paperwork. Contact us at 705-436-6527, or email us at [email protected] for more information or to make an appointment. You can also keep up to date with us by following any of our social media.