What in the World is Bruxism?
What is Bruxism?
Medical terminology can be a little tricky sometimes. Here at Prescott Dentistry we’ve made an effort to simplify and describe certain terms like the exciting advancements of “biomimetic dentistry” (click here for a recap on all things “biomimetic“). However, there are still some other terms that are not exactly common knowledge. So that brings us to the common question: what the heck is bruxism?
The word bruxism originates from the Greek word “brychein” which is to gnash or grind your molars. It is defined as the clenching of one’s teeth in a context other than chewing, and is associated with forceful jaw movements and the rubbing or grinding of teeth together. People who experience bruxism often are unaware of it, especially if it occurs at night. Bruxism at night can be a much more serious condition because of it’s difficulty to control. It is a very common sleep disorder than can eventually lead to the blunting and shortening of teeth, myofascial muscle pain, TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), and severe headaches. In the most extreme chronic cases, bruxism can result in athritis of the temporomandibular joints.
While there is no clear definitive answer for the reason behind every bruxism case, it is evident that daily stress may be a factor. Up to 70% of bruxism is thought to occur due to anxiety and stress causing the subconscious grinding at night. The effects vary from person to person and sometimes people who suffer from bruxism experience little to no symptoms at all.
Bruxism may also be the result of an abnormal bite. When one’s top and bottom teeth come together in an unusual way it is known as occlusal discrepancy. Missing or crooked teeth may also be behind the daytime or nighttime grinding. Bruxism can also be a result of various psychotropic drugs like antidepressants.
With stress being one of the main factors in cases of bruxism, it is often the case that individual-specific stress management programs are effective. Getting a good nights sleep, quality diet, and exercise are also great ways to dial back stress levels.
If stress is not the determining factor, and the misalignment of the teeth and jaw are the culprits, a trained dentist can create a custom-fit nighttime mouth guard. It is not recommended that you use a generic sports mouth guard, because they often come out of place at night and do more harm than good. Consider having your teeth and jaw realigned by an orthodontist or Invisalign specialist if a mouth guard isn’t doing the trick.
Contact the staff at Prescott Dentistry if you think you might be suffering from bruxism, and in the mean time try to reduce stress levels and cut back on caffeine and alcohol as these can lead to an increase in grinding.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/7/2015) Ricardo Liberato (Flickr)