Everything you need to know about bruxism

Do you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw and a headache? You might have spent part of the night grinding or clenching your teeth. This involuntary reflex is called bruxism and affects approximately 20% of children and 8% of adults. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms and treat this habit.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the grinding or clenching of the teeth unrelated to normal functions such as masticating or swallowing. Although it can happen during the day, bruxism usually occurs when you’re sleeping. Grinding or clenching your teeth can be silent or noisy. Approximately 20% of children, 8% of adults and 3% of senior citizens grind their teeth every week.

Signs and symptoms

Bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear (sharpened, chipped or cracked teeth) and can damage your fillings, crowns and dentures. Bruxism can cause fatigue, a sore jaw, lockjaw, headaches or earaches. Some people might also notice an increase in the size of their jaw muscles.

Another sign of bruxism: your loved one might complain about the noise you make when grinding your teeth at night!

The causes

The exact causes of bruxism remain largely unknown, but some theories have been formulated. Anxiety and stress during the day might make you grind your teeth at night. How you sleep could also play a role: most teeth grinders sleep on their back, which pushes the jaw and tongue back and can narrow your airway. Bruxism could also occur after an increase in the breathing and heart rates associated with the systems that regulate sleep.

Your lifestyle

Some lifestyle habits can also increase the chances of bruxism. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, bad sleep hygiene, sleeping on your back, medication (some antidepressants for instance) and illicit drugs can contribute to bruxism. Because there seems to be a link between stress (or anxiety) and bruxism, any relaxation technique that reduces stress can help relieve the symptoms. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, re-evaluating your lifestyle habits could help!

Le mode de vie

The treatment

Treating bruxism starts with identifying and eliminating the causes when possible. Wearing oral appliances such as a night guard can also help. A night guard is a custom acrylic device that covers the surface of the teeth to prevent your upper teeth from coming into contact with your lower teeth. It does not cure bruxism, but it can relieve the pressure on your joints and protect the teeth and bones in your mouth. There are also a few different over-the-counter or prescription medications that you can take before going to bed to reduce pain and muscle tension during extended periods of bruxism. Some people might also experience relief through physiotherapy or acupuncture.

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Everything you need to know about bruxism

Do you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw and a headache? You might have spent part of the night grinding or clenching your teeth. This involuntary reflex is called bruxism and affects approximately 20% of children and 8% of adults. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms and treat this habit.
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