Home Dentistry Articles Bruxism
This is a habit observed in a large number
of people occasionally and, in a smaller number, habitually.
The mechanism of causation is tension and spasm of the muscles
used for mastication. The term also refers to clenching of the
teeth, which causes similar problems.
Often, it occurs during sleep; even a short
nap may induce it. In a typical case, the canines and incisors
are commonly moved against each other laterally, i.e. with a
side to side action. This erodes tooth enamel, removing the
sharp biting surfaces and flattening the edges of the teeth.
Sometimes, there is a tendency to grind the molars together,
which can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner.
Over time, bruxing shortens and blunts the
teeth being ground, and may lead to pain in the joint of the
jaw, the temporomandibular joint, or headache. Teeth hollowed
by previous decay (caries) may collapse; the pressure exerted
by bruxism on the teeth is extraordinarily high.
The cause, or causes, of bruxism remains unclear.
Some dentists believe it is due to a lack of symmetry in the
teeth; others, that it reflects anxiety, digestive problems
or a disturbed sleep pattern.
The effects of the condition may be quite advanced
before sufferers are aware they brux. Eroded teeth may be brought
to the sufferer's attention during a routine dental examination.
If enough enamel is eroded, the softer dentine will be exposed,
and erosion will accelerate. This opens the possibility of dental
decay and tooth fracture, and in some people, gum recession.
Early intervention by a dentist is advisable.
Some drugs are known to cause bruxism as a
side-effect, e.g. MDMA and others of the amphetamine-based family.
Treatment of bruxism
Unfortunately, there is no accepted cure as
yet; mainly as we have no accepted model of causation for the
condition. Ongoing management of bruxism is based on prevention
of the abrasion of tooth surfaces by the wearing of an acrylic
dental guard, created to the shape of the individual's upper
teeth from a bite mould. This requires trips to the dentist
for measuring and fitting. Alongside this full width guard,
smaller and alternative shapes can be obtained, some with proprietary
names. It is worth noting that some clinicians advise against
the fitting of fitted guards as a long term treatment.
If a tense jaw is experienced during wakefulness,
some sufferers find it helpful to gently press their jaws open
with fingertip pressure, to relax the affected muscles much
as one would treat a leg cramp, but in this case, it is important
to take care not to overextend the jaw joint.
Though, presently, there is no cure available
for bruxers, it may be found beneficial to work at reducing
stress and anxiety before bedtime, by a winding-down activity
such as massage, meditation or reading, and eating early enough
to ensure a fairly empty stomach at bedtime may also help.
Damaged teeth can be repaired by replacing
the worn natural crown of the tooth with an artificial crown.
Materials used to make crowns vary; some are less prone to breaking
than others, and can last longer. Porcelain fused to metal crowns
may be used in the anterior (front) of the mouth, and in the
posterior (back) gold is the preferred material. To protect
the new crowns, an occlusional guard may be fabricated to wear