Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day or grind them at night, which is called sleep bruxism.
Bruxism may be mild and may not even require treatment. However, it can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. Because you may have sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop, it's important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care.
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
When to see a doctor
If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of this condition — be sure to mention it at your child's next dentist appointment.
Doctors don't completely understand what causes bruxism. Possible physical or psychological causes may include:
These factors increase your risk of bruxism:
In most cases, bruxism doesn't cause serious complications. But severe bruxism may lead to:
Preparing for your appointment
It's usually best to see your dentist first, though you may also see a family doctor or general practitioner if your dentist feels it's necessary. In some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a sleep specialist.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For bruxism, some basic questions to ask your doctor or dentist include:
What to expect from your doctor or dentist
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
During regular dental exams, your dentist likely will check for physical signs of bruxism, such as:
If you have any of these signs, your dentist will look for changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several visits to see if the process is progressive and to determine whether you need treatment.
If your dentist suspects that you have bruxism, he or she will try to determine its cause by asking questions about:
To evaluate the extent of bruxism, your dentist may check for:
A dental examination may detect other disorders that can cause similar jaw or ear pain, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, other dental disorders or an ear infection. If your dentist suspects a significant psychological component to your teeth grinding or a sleep-related disorder, you may be referred to a therapist, counselor or sleep specialist.
A sleep specialist may conduct additional tests, such as video monitoring and measuring how often your jaw muscles contract while you sleep.
Treatments and drugs
In many cases, no treatment is necessary. Many kids outgrow bruxism without special treatment, and many adults don't grind or clench their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However, if the problem is severe, treatment options include certain therapies and medications.
If you're having a hard time changing your habits, you may benefit from biofeedback, a form of complementary and alternative medicine that uses a variety of monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you to control involuntary body responses.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These self-care steps may prevent or help treat bruxism:
Last Updated: 2011-05-19
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