Bruxism: The damage it causes and Home Remedies to stop it
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is essentially when you grind your teeth and clench your jaw. There are a number of reasons as to why this happens, although it is often related to stress or anxiety.
There is some lasting damage that it can cause to your teeth particularly, and, whilst it does not always show symptoms, it can cause facial pain and give you headaches; although we will discuss the symptoms in more depth later on.
Bruxism often goes unnoticed, as many people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw are often not aware that they are doing it. This is because it is most likely to happen whilst you are asleep or when you are concentrating.
Most people are likely to grind their teeth from time to time, and it will usually cause no harm, but it when the grinding is occurring on a regular basis that it can become a problem, as the teeth can become damaged and you might experience other oral health problems. We will discuss the damage it can cause in more detail later.
How will I know if I am suffering from Bruxism?
The likelihood is you might not know. However, if you are doing it on a regular basis, there are a number of symptoms that might present themselves. These can, of course, can vary in severity from people to people, but there are certain things to keep an eye out for. These include; facial pain particularly around the jaw area and headaches upon waking, earache, pain and stiffness in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, which can lead to temporomandibular disorder, a condition that affects the movement of the jaw. It should be noted that this condition is not usually serious and will likely get better on its own, but it can be uncomfortable; disrupted sleep for both you and your partner, worn-down teeth or increased sensitivity, broken teeth or requiring fillings. Once again, the pain and headaches will normally only be present in the morning and will often disappear when you have stopped grinding your teeth, and the tooth damage that was mentioned normally only occurs in very severe cases; however, this will require treatment and a visit to your doctor or dentist.
How do you know when to see your dentist or GP?
It is important to know when you should take your symptoms further and get possible treatment for the condition.
You should consider going to the dentist if you notice that your teeth have become worn, damaged or are more sensitive than usual, your jaw, face or ear is painful, or your partner has noticed you making a grinding sound in your sleep.
Your dentist will then give your mouth and teeth a check, and look for signs of grinding, before deciding if you require further treatment or not.
If you think that your grinding is due to stress, it is worth making an appointment with your GP as well to discuss ways to help you deal with the problem.
What damage can Bruxism cause?
Like we have said Bruxism often goes unnoticed, and damage is minimal; however long-term grinding can cause some damage. Because most people grind their teeth in their sleep, your conscious or rational brain has no control over the process, which means that the force your jaws exert is a whopping three to ten times greater than it is when you chew regularly. This is also because when you are chewing consciously, some of the intensity is buffered by food, but with bruxism, it Is your teeth that get the full force of your jaws.
Excessive grinding of your teeth can even cause a change in your appearance. This is because the act of grinding can lead to an increased use of the masseter muscles at the back angle of the lower jaw. When this happens on a regular basis, it can cause the muscles to build up around this area, which can give the face a wider appearance. On top of this, excessive grinding can also lead to surface enamel loss, which can then make the teeth shorter and more sensitive. Shorter teeth can then give the appearance of an over-closed mouth, which is more often than not associated with old age.
As we have already discussed as well as problems with your oral health; it can also cause problems with your general health as well. This is because it can cause headaches and earaches, and you might also not be getting a good quality of sleep, which can dramatically affect your general health and wellbeing.
What causes Bruxism?
What causes people to grind their teeth is not always clear and is often linked to other factors, like stress, anxiety and sleep problems.
One of the main reasons for teeth grinding is because of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, because this often happens in your sleep, you are not always aware that it is happening, and might only begin to notice symptoms after a prolonged period of time.
Another common cause of bruxism is because it is a side effect of taking certain types of medication. It has been particularly linked with a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. These include paroxetine, fluoxetine and sertraline.
Like we have mentioned, another common cause for bruxism is because of sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, which makes you more likely to grind your teeth as you sleep. On top of this, you are more likely to grind your teeth if you talk or mumble in your sleep, behave violently whilst you are asleep, such as kicking out or punching, have sleep paralysis, or experience hallucinations whilst you are semi-conscious.
Finally, your lifestyle could also mean that you are more likely to grind your teeth as well. These factors include; drinking excessive alcohol, smoking, using recreational drugs, in particular, ecstasy and cocaine, having a lot of caffeinated drinks every day. A lot is counted as anything above six cups.
So, what treatments are available?
There are a number of things that you can do at home, as well as a number of things that professionals can also do that can help you to deal with bruxism. One of the most common treatments is by using a mouth guard or mouth splint, which is designed to reduce the sensation of clenching or grinding of your teeth. On top of this, they can help to reduce both the pain associating with clenching and grinding, as well as preventing tooth wear. It will also help to protect against any further damage.
For more severe cases, a number of other treatments are available, such as muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene.
If your bruxism is particularly bad during periods of stress, it might be recommended that you try cognitive behavioural therapy.
More unusual treatments, and home remedies
A great long-term option is to have alignment correction if this is what is causing the problem of grinding. This might be done using braces, crowns, oral surgery, or reshaping the chewing surface of the teeth in order to make them properly aligned.
Sometimes, if people have not responded to other treatments, it might be recommended that you have botox injections. It should be noted that there is limited research surrounding the use of Botox is bruxism; however, it suggests that it could be useful in reducing the myofascial pain which is often associated with the condition. Botox should be administered by a registered professional, who is qualified to do so, and proper and extensive research should be carried out before you choose this option.
One thing that you can easily do at home, which can help relax your muscles is to massage your jaw. To do this, simply massage your jaw using two fingers in a circular motion to help ease the pain that is associated with bruxism. Throughout the day, you can also try and consciously think about your jaw, and try and relax it during the day. If after this, it still hurts, you can try taking a warm washcloth and laying it over your jaw in the areas that it hurts.
If your bruxism is caused by stress, you can try adding more vitamin C to your diet. This is because vitamin C is used by our adrenal glands, which affect the responses to stress. On top of this, it is also essential in the making of dopamine, which can help to regulate moods, so by boosting your daily intake, by including a supplement, it can help your stress levels, which in turn will stop you from grinding your teeth. There are certain foods which are really rich in vitamin C as well, including guava, blackcurrants, red peppers, kiwi, green peppers, oranges, strawberries, papaya, broccoli and kale just to name a few.
Upping your magnesium can also help as well, as it is known to help anxiety, irritability, insomnia, restlessness and hyperactivity. It is safe for adults to take 400 milligrams of high-quality magnesium every day.
Again, there are also foods which are rich in magnesium as well, including spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, kefir or yoghurt, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate, and bananas.
Remember though, if you are worried about any damage that is being caused by your teeth, or that your grinding is starting to negatively impact your life or health in any way, it is so important that you make an appointment with your dentist or GP. If you can recognise the signs and symptoms after you have been grinding your teeth, it might help you to pinpoint what is causing your bruxism.