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 of bruxism are:
- Chronic jaw pain, facial pain, and ear pain
- Awakening with a tired or tight feeling in the jaw
- Frequent tension headaches and migraines
- Excessive tooth wear, leading to chipped, flattened, cracked, or very worn teeth
- Extremely worn tooth enamel, exposing the inner layers of the tooth
- Indentations on the side of the tongue
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Depression, anxiety, and chronic stress
A BiteStrip® is a device available through our office used to diagnose bruxism at home. The device itself is a small electromyography, which can sense and monitor activity in the jaw muscles during sleep. The frequency and severity of the condition can then be assessed and a plan of treatment can be determined.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
- Gum recession. Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession and tooth loss. Grinding can damage the soft tissue directly and lead to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria are able to colonize and decay the supporting bone.
- Facial pain. Grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the myofascial region and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
- Occlusal trauma. The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to fractures, which, if left untreated, may require restorative treatment at a later time.
- Arthritis. In the most severe cases, bruxism can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints that allow the jaw to open and close smoothly.
Bruxism Treatment Options
Though there is no known 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 designed from teeth impressions to minimize the abrasive grinding action during normal sleep. Mouthguards must be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth damage. A night guard is a special type of mouth guard that is used to treat bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching. If our dentist suspects that you suffer from bruxism, we may recommend a night guard to protect your teeth from damage and prevent teeth grinding while you sleep.
- NTI-tss device: This device only covers the front teeth and must be fitted at our office. The idea behind the NTI-tss is to prevent grinding the rear molars by limiting the contraction of the temporalis muscle in the jaw.
- 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. Treatments with Botulinum Toxin Type A., commonly known as botulinum toxin, can provide tremendous relief from jaw soreness, headaches, and other unpleasant problems associated with Bruxism. Botulinum toxin treatments for Bruxism can also soften the appearance of the jaw line. By injecting small doses of botulinum toxin directly into the masseter muscle (the large muscle that moves the jaw), the muscle is weakened enough to stop involuntary grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. This significantly relaxes the muscle and reduces the wear and tear on the teeth due to grinding. Damage to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and headaches should be reduced or eliminated as well. Voluntary movements, such as chewing and facial expressions, are not effected at all by botox.