effective bruxism treatment for a healthier smile

Do you occasionally or regularly wake up to tension headaches, a sore or stiff jaw, and sensitive teeth? Do you feel tired even after getting a full eight hours of sleep? If these symptoms sound familiar, you could be suffering from bruxism: a clinical term used to describe teeth grinding and jaw clenching. This condition doesn’t just occur during tense movie scenes or busy traffic; bruxism most commonly occurs involuntarily during the night while sleeping and can be related to stress, bite disorders, and sleep apnea. Treatment for bruxism is necessary, as it can develop into more serious oral health issues, such as tooth fractures, decay, and TMJ disorder. Your Denver dentists at Metropolitan Dental Care are equipped to provide the necessary bruxism treatment, including custom mouth guards to improve your smile. Learn more about this condition and how you can stop bruxism from damaging your smile today.

what causes teeth grinding and clenching?

Sometime it can be hard to “shut off” the day when you are trying to go to sleep. But when stress, worry, and anxiety from the day spill over into your sleep cycle, they can negatively affect your quality of sleep, as well as your health and wellbeing the next day. Did you know that poorly managed stress and anxiety can lead to teeth grinding and clenching at night? Bruxism is often used unknowingly as a coping mechanism for people during moments of extreme stress and anxiety. Although bruxism often occurs in the middle of the night, it can also happen during stressful times of the day.

Bruxism is also caused by sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, or an improper or misaligned bite. Bruxism is common, affecting nearly 10% of people, and equally impacting both males and females. Rates of bruxism are higher in those patients who have a family history of nighttime teeth grinding or clenching.

what are the side effects?

Sometimes, bruxism can go undetected until your dentist notices tooth wear or damage. However, other patients experience painful or frustrating side effects which lead to a bruxism diagnosis. These may include:

  • Jaw pain, such as a sore, tight, or stiff jaw in the morning or throughout the day
  • Facial muscle fatigue, often described as a “tired” feeling in the face and jaw
  • Interrupted sleep, frequent waking at night or loud grinding or clenching which wakes a partner
  • Facial swelling and tenderness
  • Tooth pain, or sore, sensitive teeth
  • Loose teeth resulting in dental misalignment or tooth loss
  • Fractured teeth
  • Damaged fillings
  • Frequent headaches, most commonly tension-style headaches that may radiate down to the neck or shoulders
  • Gum tenderness and oral irritation
  • Gum recession
  • TMJ disorder
  • Tight jaw muscles, making it difficult to open/close mouth
  • Neck stiffness or pain from tensed muscles during sleep

could my child have bruxism?

It is common for children to suffer from bruxism at some point. Estimates show anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of children suffer from occasional bruxism. The grinding and clenching usually occurs during deep sleep. Dentists believe some children grind their teeth because of misaligned teeth or improper bite, while others may be grinding to subconsciously ease tooth or jaw pain. Still other children could be reacting to stressful periods during their life.

While children generally outgrow bruxism, adults who are facing this issue need to seek immediate attention before the condition develops into something more serious and results in costly restorative treatment.

bruxism treatment options

The first step in treating bruxism involves meeting with one of our compassionate and experienced dentists. At your consultation, he or she will review your symptoms and perform a full examination of your teeth, gums, and jawbone using advanced technology. This will allow them to recommend the best treatment solution for your needs.

Patients who suffer from stress and anxiety may benefit from making certain lifestyle adjustments, such as:

Reducing caffeine intake. Bruxism patients should make it a point to not consume caffeine during the latter part of the day or to restrict caffeine intake to just one caffeinated beverage a day. For patients with anxiety, limiting caffeine can also help to reduce anxious feelings or stress.

Eating a healthy, nutritional diet. Avoiding high-sugar or carbohydrate-heavy foods in the evening can help you achieve more restful sleep.

Exercising regularly. Not only can exercise help you sleep more soundly, but it also releases endorphins to help patients manage more healthy stress levels.

Getting more sleep. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Avoiding gum. Gum can overwork and strain jaw muscles. If you already suffer from bruxism, give your jaw a rest in between meals by avoiding mindless chewing.

Implementing yoga or meditation practices. If stress is fueling your bruxism habits, implementing more mindfulness before bedtime can help to clear the mind before sleep. By eliminating some stress before bedtime, you can improve your body’s ability to relax fully during sleep.

Taking anti-anxiety medications or supplements. If you are suffering from high levels of anxiety or stress which make it difficult to cope with daily life, a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you create a treatment plan to improve your quality of life. Medications or certain natural supplements, combined with meditation or therapy can sometimes eliminate bruxism for some patients.

Teeth in the back of the jaw (molars) are most susceptible to damage during grinding. For teeth that have been cracked or chipped due to grinding and clenching, a dental crown or dental bonding can strengthen and protect them from further damage. In addition, a custom-made mouth guard may also be recommended. If bruxism is not prevented through an oral appliance, the force can also crack or damage restorative work. To protect your new restorations, your dentist can fit you for a custom mouth guard in our Denver practice. Mouth guards fit comfortably over your top and bottom teeth to prevent teeth from grinding during the night while you sleep.

If a bite disorder is the cause of your bruxism, the dentist will first recommend orthodontics such as Invisalign® or traditional braces or other orthodontic appliances to straighten your jaw. This treatment addresses the root of the issue and preserves the longevity of your oral health.

For patients with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea, additional treatment measures may need to be taken to ensure a healthy night’s sleep. Some patients benefit from an oral appliance which helps to maintain an open airway during the night. Often, however, dentists may recommend a consultation with a certified sleep physician.

contact us

If bruxism is having an adverse effect you on or your child, we strongly encourage you to seek treatment immediately with one of our skilled Denver dentists at Metropolitan Dental Care. Enamel wear due to bruxism cannot be reversed, so it is important to receive treatment early if you suspect you suffer from bruxism. Don’t let the tooth pain, jaw soreness, or headaches go untreated! Schedule an appointment with our team today to reverse your bruxism symptoms. We look forward to helping you sleep easier! Contact us online or give us a call at our downtown Denver office at (303) 534-2626.