Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity that commonly occurs in most people at some point in their lives. The two main characteristics of this condition are grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. These actions usually occur during a person’s sleeping hours, but occasionally they occur during the day.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders. Chewing is a neuromuscular activity controlled by a subconscious process, but more highly controlled by the brain. During sleep, the subconscious process may become active, while the higher control is inactive (asleep), resulting in bruxism. The most common symptoms are earaches, headaches, muscle tenderness, enamel wear, notching of the roots of the teeth (abfraction), cracked and chipped teeth, and tooth mobility. Bruxism may be related to depression, eating disorders, anxiety, chronic stress, and use of certain medications.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
- Gum recession. Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession since it directly damages the hard and soft tissues. This can lead to loss of gum tissue (recession), exposed roots which can be sensitive and unesthetic, and loss of bone supporting the teeth.
- Facial pain. Bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth which can lead to muscle pain in the myofascial region and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
- Occlusal trauma. Since bruxism causes damage to the bone housing the teeth, if left untreated, can cause shifting of the teeth, loose teeth, and loss of bone supporting the teeth. The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures which may require restorative treatment. If a fracture runs vertically down the root of the tooth, the tooth may even require extraction as this sometimes cannot be repaired. Excessive tooth wear may also be unesthetic and may require restorative treatment.
- Arthritis. In severe cases, bruxism can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints that allow the jaw to open and close smoothly. This can adversely affect speaking, chewing, and any movement of the lower jaw.
Bruxism Treatment Options
Though there is no cure for bruxism, there are a variety of devices and services available through our office to help treat bruxism:
- Mouthguards. An acrylic mouthguard can be custom fabricated from an impression and sent to a dental laboratory. The mouthguard helps to minimize the abrasive grinding action during normal sleep and stabilizes the teeth in their sockets. Mouthguards must be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth, bone, and TMJ damage.
- Laser Biostimulation: This treatment helps to reduce pain and inflammation of the musculature and TMJ itself.
- Botox®: Botox® can be injected into the muscles responsible for bruxing by disabling them enough to prevent grinding, but not enough to disrupt normal functions like speaking and chewing.
Once bruxing is under control, we can perform a variety of gum grafting procedures to restore the pleasant esthetic appearance to your smile.