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What is bruxism and how to treat it

May 25, 2023

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Illumident Patient

Dr Isabel Holmes

Principal Dentist

Have you or your loved one been waking up with sore jaw muscles or a dull headache? There’s nothing our health loves more than a great night’s sleep. If you’ve been struggling to have a replenishing rest, bruxism may be to blame. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of the condition, or your dentist has diagnosed you or a loved one with bruxism, but you want to know what it is, what causes bruxism, the symptoms to look out for and what bruxism treatments are available.

If so, you’re in the right place.

So, what is bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition that causes you to grind and clench your teeth unconsciously. It can occur during waking hours, but it is most commonly a sleep-related movement disorder (known as sleep bruxism), which means the person experiencing it can be unaware – unless the person lying next to them hears the shuddering sound of teeth grinding! Officials estimate that half the population grinds their teeth from time to time, but around 5% do it regularly.

If left untreated, bruxism can lead to several dental and wider health problems, including tooth damage, jaw pain, headaches, sleep apnea and more.

The good news? With early identification, there are effective treatment options available. But how can we identify a condition that occurs in our sleep? Let’s talk about the bruxism symptoms and signs.

Bruxism symptoms and signs

Often, bruxism is only identified after a partner or parent hears the telling sound of teeth grinding or your dentist notices the signs of tooth damage at a check-up. But there are other bruxism symptoms to look out for, which can help prevent the condition from causing larger health problems when noticed. These include:

  • Sore jaw, neck pain and/or headache upon waking or throughout the day
  • Ear aches, facial pain or difficulty opening or closing your mouth 
  • Aching or stiffness in the jaw when chewing, particularly in the morning  
  • Sensitive or loose molar teeth and aching gums 
  • Cracks or chips in your teeth, or noticing they are worn down 
  • Disrupted sleep or waking up tired 
  • Tooth indentations on the tongue
  • Inflamed tissue inside the mouth from biting 
  • A tendency to clench the jaw when concentrating, stressed or angry during waking hours 
  • ‘Bruxism face’, which is when the face takes on a square and masculine appearance from the chronic clenching of the jaw

If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from bruxism, get in touch with the Illumident Mount Gambier Dentist team to investigate and treat it as soon as possible.

Think you or someone you love is suffering from bruxism?

The best way to find out (and treat it!) is to book a check-up with your dentist. The team is here to help.

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What are the causes of bruxism?

Bruxism can be caused by a range of factors and sometimes by a combination of them. When life gets stressful or anxiety levels rise, many people unknowingly clench or grind their teeth as a coping mechanism.  Subconscious stress and anxiety are common culprits of bruxism - whilst both awake and asleep! 

Other potential triggers include misaligned or missing teeth, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, certain medications or substances like caffeine, alcohol or tobacco, and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and dementia. Age is also a factor, as bruxism in children is more common, but they usually grow out of it by adulthood.

Identifying the underlying cause of an individual’s bruxism is key to developing an effective treatment plan to suit their unique needs. The welcoming team at 29 Ferrers St, Mount Gambier can help diagnose the root cause of your or your loved one’s bruxism and recommend the best action.

The team at Illumident can help diagnose the root cause of your bruxism  and recommend the best course of action.
Bruxism in children is more common, but they usually grow out of it by adulthood. 

What is the best bruxism treatment?

There are several treatment options for bruxism, and the best solution will depend on the severity and underlying cause of the condition.

The most common treatment is a bruxism mouthguard or nightguard (also called bruxism splints), which are custom-made devices that fit over the teeth to keep them in place and help cushion them from the impact of grinding or clenching.

These are worn every night to protect the tooth enamel during sleep, and are most often prescribed when the grinding has not yet progressed to causing any pain or headaches during waking hours. In most cases, the dentist identifies this level of bruxism during a routine check-up.

If the bruxism is more severe and is causing pain in the jaw, ears, face, neck or headaches, dental procedures may be the most effective option. This may include muscle relaxants for bruxism, administered in clinic by a qualified professional to ensure you can no longer grind your teeth without compromising your ability to eat and speak. Other dental treatments may include reshaping or realigning teeth to correct bite issues, or orthodontic treatment to realign the teeth.

If the bruxism is a more chronic case that has damaged the teeth, part of the treatment may also include fillings, crowns, veneers or bonding for aesthetic reasons to remedy this.

Dr Isabel suggests the injection of muscle relaxants to relieve the patient’s bruxism symptoms at Illumident Mount Gambier.
Muscle relaxants for bruxism, administered in clinic by a qualified dental professional, ensure you can no longer grind your teeth without compromising your ability to eat and speak.

Bruxism can be a challenging condition that can cause significant discomfort and damage, but early detection and the right treatment can put a permanent pause on any pain. From custom-built mouthguards and splints to top-of-the-line muscle relaxants, the Illumident team on the Limestone Coast can help you manage your condition and maintain your glowing smile.

Early detection is always best, so don’t hesitate to contact the team if you suspect you or a loved one are suffering from bruxism.

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