Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bruxism: The Grinding Truth

Most people refer to bruxism as "grinding" the teeth. When you "brux", you tightly clamp your top and bottom teeth together, especially your back teeth. Many people who clench also grind their teeth at the same time. Grinding is when you slide your teeth over each other, generally in a sideways, back-and-forth movement. Many people clench and grind their teeth during the day, but the nighttime bruxing is of most concern, because it is harder to control and can lead to eventual jaw, tooth and gum damage.

Experts don't agree on what causes bruxism. Some researchers believe that it's caused by a bite that is not correctly aligned, while others believe it is a central nervous system disorder. Children frequently exhibit bruxism behaviors in response to pain and discomfort of illnesses such as colds, ear infections or allergies. An additional concern with children is their increased intake of acidic and carbonated drinks which can accelerate the damage caused on teeth.  In adults, excess intake of alcoholic beverages may affect their level of grinding and clenching, and stress is also a huge factor in bruxing.  Many experts believe it's a combination of these and other problems and that different people brux for different reasons.

Almost everyone "grinds their teeth." The problem is the degree of bruxing. Some people only grind their teeth a bit and show few symptoms, but for those who brux frequently and over a period of many years, the effects on teeth and the surrounding structures of gums and bone can be severe.

The pressure that you can apply to your teeth can range from 100 to 600 pounds per square inch! Severe bruxism can result in wearing or breaking of teeth, sensitive or loose teeth, receding gums, loss of supporting bone around the teeth, bony ridges in the gums, cheek irritation, sore muscles, headaches, earaches and TMJ (temporomandibular jaw) dysfunction.

If you or a family member shows signs or sounds of bruxism, ask us for an evaluation. An examination will rule out other disorders, that could be causing the symptoms. Once a diagnosis is made, the goals of treatment are to ease pain, prevent damage to teeth and surrounding areas, and reduce bruxism behavior as much as possible.

To prevent damage, we may recommend undergoing orthodontic treatment (braces). Aligning the teeth and placing them in their correct positions allow occlusal forces to be directed down the long axis of the teeth and distributed to surrounding tissues. This tends to relieve or reduce bruxism. Although this will reduce occlusal trauma, the reduction in bruxing may be temporary and may re-appear after treatment is finished.  Alternatively, we may prescribe an appliance, such as a splint, for you to wear at night. Appliances may protect teeth from the pressure of clenching and may even reduce clenching, however some patients find that it does not make their bruxism better and may even make it worse. There is no one cure-all for bruxism, so it may take a team effort between you, Dr. Luis and your dentist to find the cure for your problem.

Just remember that bruxism is not a dangerous disorder and that with conscious effort and professional help, you can prevent damage to your oral and overall health.


  1. Nice post! I may recommend undergoing orthodontic treatment (braces). Orthodontic treatment is simple, convenient, and affordable for patients of all ages. And an attractive smile is just one of the benefits. Orthodontic treatment results in correctly-aligned teeth that provide ideal jaw function and a great smile!

    orthodontist Colorado Springs CO

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