Tooth grinding (Bruxism) - All you need to know

Dental Designs Clinic Singapore
27 Sep, 2022

Most people grind their teeth from time to time, especially during stressful situations. While tooth grinding may not affect your teeth if it is done transiently or for short durations, it can damage your teeth if it becomes a habit. Unfortunately, many people are not even aware that they grind their teeth, as most of the time they do it while sleeping.

Do you feel waking up with painful jaw joints or a severe headache? Chances are that you may be grinding your teeth during sleep. If you or your loved ones notice that you grind your teeth, it is important to seek treatment. This article explains everything you need to know about tooth grinding, how it affects your oral health and how it is treated.

What is Bruxism?young woman grinding teeth in her sleep

Bruxism is a condition that involves excessive grinding of teeth, which is not related to normal dental functions such as chewing or swallowing. Although some people tend to grind their teeth during the day, most people who have bruxism, grind or clench their teeth during sleep. The most common cause of bruxism is anxiety and depression. However, it can also occur as a result of sleep disorders or due to an abnormal tooth bite. 

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How Do I Know if I Have Bruxism?

You may be having bruxism if you are having any of the following symptoms:

  • Facial Pain – this occurs because your facial muscles remain under tension while you grind your teeth. This leads to facial pain, often in the morning.
  • Headaches and Earaches – due to the excessive straining of the muscles of the scalp and the head.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders – when you grind your teeth, you are actually putting a lot of pressure on your jaw joints. The more you grind your teeth, the higher will be wearing and damage to the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), resulting in problems such as difficult or painful mouth opening, clicking sounds, or even jaw dislocation.
  • Sleep Disruption – the sound of tooth grinding is often so high that it can disrupt your sleep as well as your partner’s
  • Worn Down Teeth – due to physical grinding between the opposing teeth, the biting surfaces of the teeth become flattened.

What are the Consequences of Bruxism?

Tooth grinding is one of the “bad” dental habits, which can prove to be extremely dangerous for your oral and physical health. Let’s take a look at how bruxism can affect you:

  • Sensitive Teeth – perhaps, the most common problem associated with bruxism is tooth sensitivity. This happens because every time you grind your teeth, a layer of the protective enamel layer is lost from their chewing surfaces. A time comes when the enamel layer is completely destroyed, and the underlying sensitive dentine and pulp become exposed, making your teeth sensitive and vulnerable to getting cavities.
  • Tooth Fractures – during bruxism, your teeth come under a lot of pressure. Persistent grinding forces on your teeth can result in the development of vertical fractures in your teeth. These fractures can result in significant damage to the tooth structure and can also result in spontaneous exposure and inflammation of the pulp.
  • Periodontal Problems – bruxism also result in the inflammation of the periodontal tissues which surround and support the teeth in their sockets. If this condition is not corrected timely, your teeth may become shaky.
  • Damage to Restorations – tooth grinding can also damage any tooth fillings, crowns, bridges or any other restorations of the teeth. This is because of the excessive pressure the restorations have to bear, which is often beyond their capacity to withstand.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMDs) – TMDs, in case of bruxism can arise due to two reasons; either as a result of an improper bite or due excessive pressure on the joints. Whatever, the reason, bruxism damages the joints and can result in limited or painful mouth opening, difficulty in chewing, headaches and earaches. Also, due to the excessive pressure on the facial muscles, individuals who have bruxism often wake up with severe pain in their facial or temple region.

How is Bruxism Treated?Young woman putting night guard for tooth grinding

Treatment of bruxism involves the identification and elimination of the underlying cause. At Dental Designs Clinic, we realize the importance of treating bruxism at an early stage, so the damage to your teeth and other dental structures can be minimized. Here’s how our dentists treat problems related to tooth grinding:

  • Identification of the Underlying Cause – the first step in the management of bruxism is to identify the cause, so that appropriate treatment. If your bruxism problem has a medical cause, we will work closely with your physician to eliminate the issue.
  • Occlusal Splints and Mouthguards – occlusal splints are appliances which are worn over your teeth, and they prevent them from getting damaged because of bruxism. Similarly, mouthguards or nightguards also prevent your teeth damage from damage as a result of grinding during sleep.  However, this only serves as a temporary solution while we treat the underlying cause.
  • Dental Crowns – we may also place dental crowns to protect and strengthen the teeth which have become fractured because of bruxism.
  • Sleep Medicine – if you grind your teeth due to sleep disorders, then we will provide the necessary dental treatment to protect your teeth and refer you to a sleep medicine specialist for further treatment.

No doubt bruxism is bad for your teeth, but fortunately, this condition can be managed. In this case, prevention is definitely better than cure.