Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity that commonly occurs in most people at some point in their lives. The two main characteristics of this condition are grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. These actions usually occur during a person’s sleeping hours, but occasionally they occur during the day.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders. Chewing is a neuromuscular activity controlled by a subconscious process, but more highly controlled by the brain. During sleep, the subconscious process may become active, while the higher control is inactive (asleep), resulting in bruxism. The most common symptoms are earaches, headaches, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and chronic stress.
Why should I seek treatment for Bruxism?
- Gum recession. Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession and tooth loss. Grinding can damage the soft tissue directly and lead to loose teeth and deep pockets where bacteria are able to colonize and decay the supporting bone.
- Facial pain. Grinding can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to muscle pain in the myofascial region and in severe cases, incapacitating headaches.
- Occlusal trauma. The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth can lead to fractures, which, if left untreated, may require restorative treatment at a later time.
- Arthritis. In the most severe cases, bruxism can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints that allow the jaw to open and close smoothly.
Bruxism Treatment Options
Though there is no known cure for bruxism, there are a variety of devices and services available through our office to help treat bruxism:
- Nightguards. An acrylic mouthguard can be designed from teeth impressions to minimize the abrasive grinding action during normal sleep. Nightguards must be worn on a long-term basis to help prevent tooth damage. Even when bruxism
- Orthotic Appliances These are thin acrylic stainless steel reinforced appliances worn on the teeth to better position the temperomandibular joint structures. In some situations the jaw joint does not work properly and you begin to get popping and clicking noises when chewing or opening fully. Sometimes your jaw joint will get “stuck” in the partially open position with increased pain.
- TMJ Therapy. We use a variety of treatment techniques on tender jaw muscles and joints. Ultrasound is applied to chronically sore jaw muscles to help alleviate spasm and improve movement. Hydroculator therapy delivers moist heat to improve circulation and decrease pain in the muscles.
- Iontophoresis When the jaw joint is inflamed and stiff, anti-inflammatory medications like dexamethasone can be introduced painlessly by an adhesive patch placed over your jaw joint. Gentle electrical stimulation is applied allowing the medication to enter the joint capsule.
- Functional Exercises can improve your jaw’s range of motion and help restore function to stiff muscles and joints