Teeth grinding or clenching is called bruxism. It can occur without knowledge during sleep or during waking hours. This condition can affect up to 1 in 5 people, occur at any age, and affect men and women equally. If the teeth stay unprotected, it can lead to serious dental problems such as wearing down the enamel. It can also cause headaches and problems with the jaw.
What causes it?
Although stress can play a role, studies looking at the electrical activity in muscles have shown that the muscles (temporalis and masseter) used to chew food are overactive. If you place your fingers on your face a little in front of your ears and bite down, you can feel these muscles working.
You may have bruxism if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Pain in the face, jaw, or neck
- Damage to your teeth
- Chewing muscles that are tight or tired, especially upon awakening
- Trouble sleeping
How is it diagnosed?
Bruxism can typically be diagnosed through history and exam. A dentist may be the first to notice signs of teeth wear or damage. X-rays may be ordered to check for teeth or jaw abnormalities. Also, if sleep-related bruxism is suspected, a sleep study (polysomnography) may be ordered.
What is the treatment?
Sometimes is causes little damage and requires no treatment. However, in more severe cases, a mouth guard may be needed to prevent tooth injury. Also, if stress plays a role, stress management or biofeedback may help. Another possible treatment option is the use of muscle relaxants.
An especially helpful treatment is botulinum toxin (Botox) injections performed by a neurologist. Botulinum toxin is injected into the painful muscles to relax the jaw. This treatment can help reduce pain, prevent tooth damage, and alleviate associated headaches.
Calling all Teeth Grinders! Do you suffer from headaches or jaw pain? Would you like to be evaluated by a neurologist to diagnose your symptoms? OrthoNeuro's Neurologist, Martin Taylor, DO, PhD specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition!
Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/home/ovc-20317503
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001413.htm
Czeisler CA, Scammell TE, Saper CB. Sleep Disorders. In: Kasper D, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com.proxy.library.ohiou.edu/content.aspx?bookid=1130§ionid=79725062. Accessed May 05, 2017.