Bruxism – Teeth grinding. What is it and how can we prevent it?

Bruxism – Teeth grinding. What is it and how can we prevent it?

Bruxism – Teeth Clenching & Grinding

By: Dr. Robert Bubnic

Dental Society

Bruxism is an excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth that is not a part of normal chewing movements. It can lead to excessive wear on the teeth and may cause permanent damage to the teeth and the jaw joints.

In some adults and children, clenching and grinding may occur during the day or at night. They typically have no conscious control over this excessive clenching and grinding, particularly when it occurs during sleep. The best dentist in Redmond Oregon offer dental services for patients of all ages.

Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism

The signs and symptoms of bruxism vary according to the nature, frequency, duration and strength of excessive clenching and grinding. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the teeth and sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Chronic muscular facial pain with tension headaches
  • The noise, noticed by partners, friends or relatives, that occurs as the teeth are ground together
  • Flattened and worn tooth surfaces, which may reveal the underlying yellow or orange dentine layer
  • Micro fractures of the tooth enamel
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Loose teeth with possible damage to the tooth sockets
  • Stiffness and pain in the jaw joint that cause restricted opening and difficult chewing
  • Earache

The variation in signs and symptoms reflects the strength of clenching and grinding involved in bruxism. People who clench their teeth tightly may experience tension related headaches, but may have little or no damage to the teeth or jaw joint. Tight clenching alone puts minimal pressure on the jaw joint. Those who experience severe grinding may have damaged teeth and jaw joint problems.
People with mild tooth grinding may have worn teeth surfaces but no jaw joint pain or teeth sensitivity. These individuals may not even realise that they have bruxism.

Treatment of Bruxism

Therapy aims to achieve changes in behaviour by teaching the patient how to rest the mouth. Being aware of
“daytime tooth contact” is one of the most important behavior modifiers.

  • Reducing stress where possible.
  • No chewing-gum.
  • Alternating hot and cold packs on the side of the face. 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off.
  • Use of anti-inflammatories i.e. ibuprofen
  • Jaw, head and neck massage, at home or with a physiotherapist.
  • Jaw exercises can provide pain relief for acute cases of grinding/clenching, see below.
  • An occlusal splint (also called a night guard) is the most popular option for someone with chronic mild to severe grinding behaviour. Worn at night, the splint is made from moulded acrylic that fits over the upper or lower teeth. It prevents further wear of the tooth surfaces.
  • Some patients may require muscle relaxant tablets at night
  • Rarely, surgical intervention or Botox treatment may be required.

Jaw exercises

Stretching exercises can help with jaw pain during a flare-up. They reduce muscle and joint tension, offering
longer-term relief:

1. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can, and hold for 5-10 seconds.

2. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Glide your lower jaw out as far as it will go and then back in as far as it will go. Hold for 5-10 seconds in each position.

3. Slowly and steadily open your mouth as wide as it will comfortably open, with your tongue in a neutral position. Hold for 5-10 seconds then close your mouth. Next, open your mouth slightly and glide your lower jaw back and forth 5-10 times.

4. Close your mouth. With your head facing straight ahead, glance to the right with your eyes only. Extend your lower jaw to the left and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

If your symptoms fail to settle in 1-2 weeks, please see your local dentist.

By: Dr. Robert Bubnic

Dental Society