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Bruxism

What is bruxism?

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:

  • Abraded teeth

  • Chipped or cracked teeth

  • Facial pain

  • Overly sensitive teeth

  • Tense facial and jaw muscles

  • Headaches

  • 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)

  • Tongue indentations

  • 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.

What causes bruxism?

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.

How is bruxism diagnosed?

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.

Treatment for bruxism

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:

  • Behavior modification
    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.

  • Mouthguard
    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
    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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eakle, W. Stephan, DDS
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/3/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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