Bruxism refers to an oral parafunctional activity that occurs in most humans at some point in their lives.   Grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur during the day or at night.

Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders and causes most of its damage during sleeping hours.  The clenching and grinding which accompanies bruxism is symptomatic of a malfunctioning chewing reflex, which is turned off in non-sufferers when sleeping.  For sufferers, deep sleep or even naps cause the reflex nerve control center in the brain to turn off and the reflex pathways to become active.

Typically, the incisors and canines (front 6 upper and lower teeth) of opposing arches grind against each other laterally.  This side to side action puts undue strain on the medial pterygoid muscles and the temporomandibular joints.  Earache, depression, headaches, eating disorders, and anxiety are among the most common symptoms of bruxism; these symptoms also accompany health issues such as chronic stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and alcohol abuse.

Bruxism is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, because it is only one of several potential causes of tooth wear.  Only a trained professional can tell the difference between bruxing wear and wear caused by overly aggressive brushing, acidic soft drinks, and abrasive foods.

Dr. MacLeod and her clinical team evaluate each patient for signs of bruxism and determine if treatment is recommended.

Reasons for the treatment of bruxism

Here are some of the main reasons why bruxism should be promptly treated:

  • Gum recession and tooth loss – Bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession and tooth loss. It damages the soft tissue directly and leads to loose teeth and deep pockets, where bacteria can colonize and destroy the supporting bone. 
  • Occlusal trauma – The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures in the teeth, which may require restorative treatment.
  • Arthritis – In severe and chronic cases, bruxing can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints (the joints that allow the jaw to open smoothly).
  • Myofascial pain – The grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth.  This can lead to debilitating headaches and muscle pain in the myofascial region.

Treatment options for bruxism

There is no single treatment for bruxism, though a variety of helpful devices and tools are available.  Here are some common ways in which bruxism is treated:

  • Bruxism Appliance or Night Guard – An acrylic appliance can be designed from a digital scan to minimize the abrasive action of tooth surfaces during normal sleep.  Bruxism appliance should be worn nightly to help to stabilize the occlusion and gum recession as well as prevent damage to teeth and to the temporomandibular joint.  A bruxism appliance is custom-made for each individual and is adjusted to the patient’s bite.
  • Neuromodulator Treatment such as Botox® or Xeomin– Botox® or Xeomin can be injected into the muscles responsible for closing your mouth to reduce their contraction.  Botox® and Xeomin are excellent treatments for bruxism because it reduces the strength of the muscle contraction enough to lessen potential damage to the teeth and supporting structures and reduce discomfort but not enough to interfere with everyday functions like chewing and speaking.
  • Orthodontics – Sometimes if teeth are misaligned or don’t bite together correctly, it can lead to bruxism.  Correcting an individual’s bite with orthodontics can sometimes be effecting is reducing bruxism.

Unfortunately, once the habit of bruxism is established, it usually can’t be stopped completely.  It is important to try to reduce any symptoms and the irreversible damage to teeth and supporting structures as much as possible.

If you have questions or concerns about bruxism, please contact our office.



If you have questions or concerns about bruxism, please contact our office.

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