Bruxism – a cause of enamel degradation and tooth wear. What causes it, how to stop it and how to treat it.

Bruxism – a cause of enamel degradation and tooth wear. What causes it, how to stop it and how to treat it.With the stress of modern-day living, particularly in central London, more people are finding they have enamel degradation and tooth wear from bruxism (or teeth grinding as it’s more commonly known). This article will help you find a solution to the problem.

How do you diagnose bruxism?

The first signs of bruxism will be noticeable by:

  • tenderness in and around the jaw muscles
  • possible headaches
  • visible signs of tooth wear and erosion resulting in chipping or flat edges on the front teeth
  • fracturing of teeth

Your dentist will be able to confirm the diagnosis of bruxism by:

  • checking for additional tooth wear towards the back of your mouth
  • checking for the signs of underlying tooth and bone damage using x-rays
  • checking the condition of other teeth for visible signs of abrasion

What is the treatment for bruxism?

The treatment for bruxism is usually done in stages:

  1. Understanding why you are grinding your teeth
  2. Physical mechanisms and barriers to stop you grinding your teeth, e.g. mouth guards
  3. Drug therapies such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce any swelling

Understanding why you are grinding your teeth

This is the first stage in treating bruxism. If the underlying cause is stress then this will need to be addressed. If the underlying cause is something physical, e.g. dental malocclusion, then this can be treated with equilibration (selective and careful tooth grinding by the dentist to remove any cuspal interferences).

Bruxism mouthguards

Mouthguards can help stop your bruxism by keeping your teeth apart. They usually fit on the lower teeth and will be custom-made for you, and fitted and adjusted for you. The surface of the mouthguard is usually flat and smooth meaning your top teeth can’t lock together with your lower teeth.

This has a double effect, not only can’t your teeth meet to actually grind but the muscles around the head, face and neck will relax to their natural position. This relaxing of the muscles can also help relieve headaches caused by bruxism.

Sleep bruxism

Exact causes of sleep bruxism are not actually known although there has been research which links it to factors such as anxiety, alcohol, smoking and stress. However, sleep bruxism is considered to be a sleep-related movement disorder and so, if you have sleep bruxism, you are statistically more likely to suffer from other sleep disorders such as snoring and possible sleep apnoea.

Can bruxism be cured?

Bruxism can be cured depending upon its causes. If the bruxism is caused by anxiety, alcohol, smoking or stress then clearly reducing these factors will help with the bruxism.

There may also be other physiological causes of bruxism which, unless treated, mean that the bruxism won’t go away.

Other common questions and answers about bruxism

Is it bad to grind your teeth?

We all grind our teeth a little bit, after all that’s what they are for, to enable us to grind food into small enough chunks to eat. Teeth grinding only becomes a problem when it affects things like tenderness in around the jaw muscles, headaches and tooth and bone loss. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the extent of any teeth grinding and let you know whether it is a problem for you.

How to relax your jaw

How do I stop clenching my teeth in my sleep?

If your intention is to rely entirely on home remedies to stop clenching your teeth in your sleep then you have two ways of doing this:

  1. Understand the cause of your teeth clenching and treat that. Is it anxiety, alcohol, stress or smoking perhaps?
  2. Consider taking over-the-counter ibuprofen, this is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and can help to reduce pain and swelling. Always follow your doctor’s instructions and the labels on any medication.

How do you know if you grind your teeth at night?

Patients tell us the first thing they know about grinding their teeth at night is that their partner tells them… It can be a rather loud grinding noise!

Other symptoms of night-time grinding could be you wake up with headaches or pain around the jaw joint or muscles in your jaw.

Is teeth grinding a sign ofsleep apnoea?

Teeth grinding is not a sign of sleep apnoea but the two conditions are linked in that they are both sleep-related movement disorders. There is no causal link between the two conditions but there may be other links worth investigating.

Can you get headaches grinding your teeth?

Yes, you most certainly can get headaches from grinding your teeth, this is because the muscles which put your jaw together connect high up around the side of your head. If these models are under tension from grinding then this can cause headaches.

Dr Jones qualified from the Royal London Dental Hospital in 1981 and spent time both in hospital service and general practice before being appointed by University College London in 1985 as one of their dentists. Two years later she was appointed by UCL to become the Principal Dentist and has been managing The Dental Centre for the last 24 years