Bruxism is a common and often overlooked dental condition characterised by grinding or clenching of teeth.
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Bruxism is a common and often overlooked dental condition characterised by grinding or clenching of teeth. This involuntary or subconscious behaviour can occur during the day or, more commonly, during sleep. While occasional teeth grinding might not be a cause for concern, chronic and severe cases of bruxism can lead to various dental and health problems, making it essential to understand its causes, symptoms, and potential consequences.
Watch Dr. Teo explain “what is bruxism”
Key Aspects of Bruxism:
- Causative factors:
Stress and Anxiety: Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, or tension are often associated with bruxism. Individuals may unconsciously grind their teeth as a response to emotional stressors.
Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnoea, snoring, and other sleep-related issues may increase the risk of sleep bruxism.
Medications: Some medications, particularly antidepressants and stimulants, can trigger or exacerbate bruxism.
Lifestyle Factors: The consumption of caffeine, alcohol, or recreational drugs can sometimes lead to teeth grinding.
The symptoms of bruxism can vary in intensity and frequency, but common signs include:
Tooth Wear: Gradual wearing down of tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity and changes in tooth appearance.
Jaw Pain: Discomfort or pain in the jaw, often due to prolonged clenching.
Headaches: Frequent tension headaches, especially in the temples.
Earaches: Pain in the ears, sometimes mistaken for ear infections and typically related to TMJ.
Sleep Disturbance: Bruxism can be related to arousals from sleep indicating disrupted sleep patterns, leading to daytime tiredness. Sometimes this may be due to breathing disturbances such as sleep apnoea.
- Potential Consequences:
If left untreated, bruxism can result in various consequences:
Tooth Damage: Severe bruxism can cause chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth, sometimes requiring dental restoration.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: Excessive grinding and clenching can strain the jaw joints, leading to TMJ disorders characterized by pain, clicking, and limited jaw movement.
Chronic Pain: Prolonged bruxism may lead to chronic facial and jaw pain, affecting one’s quality of life.
Dentists can diagnose bruxism through a dental examination, where they look for signs of tooth wear and ask about symptoms.
In cases of sleep bruxism, a sleep study known as polysomnography test may be conducted to screen for sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnoea or the effects of other neurological conditions if present.
- Treatment Options:
Treatment for bruxism depends on its severity and underlying causes:
Behavioural Therapy: Stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and counselling can help address the psycho-social aspects of bruxism.
Splints: Dentists often recommend custom-made night guards to protect teeth from the damage of grinding during sleep.
Medications: In some cases, muscle relaxants or Botox injections can be prescribed for severe, chronic bruxism which does not respond to conservative strategies. Medications that may be contributing to sleep bruxism can be reviewed to see if alternative options are available.
Management of underlying sleep disorders: If sleep disorders are present such as sleep apnoea or insomnia, optimal management may reduce sleep bruxism events related to the arousals from sleep.
Stress reduction through relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices can help prevent stress-induced bruxism.
Good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection and management.
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, especially before bedtime, may reduce the risk of bruxism.
Practicing good sleep hygiene such as by having regular sleep patterns, aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep, avoiding stimulating activities directly prior to sleep, and viewing light on awakening.
In summary, bruxism is a dental condition characterized by the grinding or clenching of teeth, often associated with stress, dental issues, and/or sleep disturbances. It can lead to various dental and health problems if left untreated, making awareness, prevention, and appropriate treatment crucial for maintaining oral and overall well-being. If you suspect you or someone you know may have bruxism, it is advisable to consult with a dentist or healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and guidance on managing the condition.
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