What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a term used to describe the habit of clenching and/or grinding on your teeth. It often occurs while people are asleep, but can occur during the day as well. It’s often stress-related. Long-term Bruxism can damage your teeth and jaw joints, as well as cause tenderness and pain in the jaw muscles.
How Can I tell if I’m a Bruxer?
Often it can be difficult. The dental team may be able to identify abnormal patterns of tooth wear that suggest a bruxing habit. Sometimes these patterns may indicate a previous habit, but not necessarily a current behaviour.
Active bruxing is often detected by examining the lining of the cheek or edge of the tongue. These areas will often show signs of recent muscle overactivity, which can suggest an active habit.
Progressive shortening of the teeth and chipping/ breaking of teeth and/or fillings may also indicate an active bruxing habit.
Sometimes (not always) bruxers will make a grinding sound when asleep, and those close to them may be able to identify this sound as indicating an active habit. However, this is not always the case. It is important to be aware that that not all bruxers will make noise, and just because partner or a loved one hasn’t mentioned anything, doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s not a problem
What are the symptoms of Bruxism?
Some bruxers don’t have any symptoms at all. Others will report generalised tooth sensitivity, pain on biting, or exaggerated post-op sensitivity to hot and cold following routine dental treatment (especially on the back teeth).
Some patients will also experience chipping/ breaking of teeth and/ or restorations, tenderness in jaw muscles, headaches, jaw-aches, clicky jaw joints and general oro-facial pain.
These symptoms are often relieved if the underlying bruxism is managed.
What Can I do to manage my Bruxism?
If the bruxism is caused by short-termstress (eg: going through exams or a difficult life period), sometimes the bruxing will stop when the stress resolves.
If the bruxism is ongoing however, it may be necessary to protect the teeth with an occlusal splint, muscle relaxation injections such as BotoxTM or by referral to a jaw-specific physiotherapist or pain management specialist.
What is an occlusal splint?
An occlusal splint is a thin piece of acrylic/ plastic that is fabricated to fit between the upper and lower teeth and act as a ‘shock absorber’ to protect the teeth, jaw joints and muscles from destructive bruxism forces.
Occlusal splints are custom made to fit a specific patient. Generally speaking they’re made to fit only one arch (you don’t need one for top and bottom). They’re usually thinner and firmer than mouthguard material, but thicker and more rigid than tooth whitening trays or orthodontic retainers.
It is important that the occlusal splints are custom made, as a poorly fitting device may make bruxism worse, or cause problems with a patients bite and ability to eat and function normally.
Patients typically take one-to-two nights to become accustomed to wearing an occlusal splint, but once they’re acclimatised many patients will not want to sleep without one.
A good occlusal splint will be secure enough not to become loose or fall out at night, and will not pose a choking hazard.
If worn regularly, splints can last for many, many years and often only need to be replaced if they start to look old and/or dirty. If not worn for a period of time, patients may find that they are uncomfortable or don’t fit when put back into the mouth again.
This I due to very minor shifting of the teeth that occurs naturally over time.
Splints can be kept clean with soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
What about BotoxTM for my Bruxism?
Botulism toxin-A (known commercially by names such as BotoxTM, DysportTM and XeominTM) is a purified bacterial protein that can be painlessly administered to overactive jaw muscles to relax them and soften the severity of bruxing related muscle activity.
This treatment typically lasts between six and twelve months, depending on the severity of bruxing involved. This treatment works very well in conjunction with occlusal splints and is typically reserved for patients with severe bruxism, or for those who cannot tolerate a splint.
The treatment takes only a few minutes to administer, and results can be felt within two-to-fourteen days.
What about Physiotherapy?
There are some good physio specialists around we can refer patients to who can teach exercise to help manage the bruxing behaviour. Please feel free to ask our team if you’d like a referral.
What Should I do if I think I’m Bruxing?
Book a consultation with our team. We would be happy to assess and advise you of your individual risk, and what treatment (if any) may be required to prevent further problems.