Bruxism is the term that refers to an incessant grinding and clenching of the teeth, unintentionally, and at inappropriate times. Bruxers (persons with bruxism) are often unaware that they have developed this habit, and often do not know that treatment is available until damage to the mouth and teeth has been done. Damage caused by bruxism often includes the following signs and symptoms. However, each individual may experience signs and symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:
Chipped or cracked teeth
Overly sensitive teeth
Tense facial and jaw muscles
Dislocation of the jaw
Wearing away of the tooth enamel, exposing the underlying dentin (inside of the tooth)
A popping or clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Damage to the inside of the cheek
The symptoms of bruxism may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a dentist or your physician for a diagnosis.
Although this habit is unintentional, oral health specialists often point to excessive stress and certain personality types as typical causes of bruxism. Bruxism often affects individuals with nervous tension such as anger, pain, or frustration, and/or persons with aggressive, hurried, or overly competitive tendencies.
During regular visits to the dentist, the teeth are examined for evidence of bruxism -- often indicated by the tips of the teeth appearing flat. If signs and symptoms are present, the condition will be observed for changes over the next several visits before a treatment program is established.
Specific treatment for bruxism will be determined by your dentist or physician based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
In most cases, bruxism can be successfully treated. Treatment may involve:
Teaching the patient how to rest his/her tongue, teeth, and lips properly, and learning how to rest the tongue upward may relieve discomfort on the jaw while keeping the teeth apart and lips closed.
A specially-fitted plastic mouth appliance may be worn at night to absorb the force of biting. This appliance may help to prevent future damage to the teeth and aid in changing the patient's behavior.
Biofeedback involves an electronic instrument that measures the amount of muscle activity of the mouth and jaw -- indicating to the patient when too much muscle activity is taking place so that the behavior can be changed. This is especially helpful for daytime bruxers. Further research is needed to develop a treatment program for bruxers who clench during the night.