Tooth grinding or bruxism

Clenching and grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is a very common but insidious occlusal problem. Bruxism occurs when you sleep and when you are awake, and it refers to involuntary rapid clenching or slow grinding of the teeth that wears down the teeth and stresses the occlusal system.

Nearly everyone grinds their teeth occasionally, but roughly 10% of the population experience severe bruxism that requires treatment. Women are more than twice as likely to suffer from the symptoms of bruxism than men. Bruxism is also a highly congenital condition.

Symptoms of bruxism

Disturbances of the occlusal system are the second most common cause for pain in the head area after toothache. Grinding and clenching teeth cause neck pain, which has a significant impact on functional capacity both at work and in free time.

Bruxism is associated with a variety of symptoms, including:
● pain in the masticatory muscles and/or temporomandibular joints and sounds produced by the joints
● reduced mouth opening and various types of pain, such as ulcers on the oral mucosa
headache, facial pain, earache and tinnitus
● muscle tension and pain in the neck and shoulder area, dizziness between the shoulder blades
● tooth damage, chipped teeth and inflammation of dental pulp

In addition to grinding your teeth, bruxism can also be clenching your teeth without making any sound, so it is easy to be unaware of it. Stress increases muscle tension and can lead to clenching and grinding your teeth. Chewing gum, smoking excessively, drinking coffee or alcohol as well as sleep apnoea, dry mouth and reflux disease can make you more susceptible to bruxism. Problems caused by bruxism often become chronic and the right mode of treatment cannot be determined as the link between a stiff neck and teeth can only be detected when visiting a dentist.

Treatment of bruxism

It is possible to perform exercises to get rid of daytime clenching, but wearing a mouth guard is useful for nightly clenching. The guard is a removable plastic sheet manufactured according to the patient’s teeth and fixed, in most cases, to the upper teeth. A mouth guard helps the masticatory muscles relax and protects the teeth from wear caused by grinding. Mouth guards are typically worn at night and it is usually easy to get used to wearing them.

In addition to wearing a mouth guard, masticatory muscle therapy performed by a physiotherapist or other modes of physiotherapy can be applied. Stress management, different relaxation methods and different types of physical activity can alleviate bruxism.

When should I see a dentist?

If you experience any of the symptoms described above or they are detected at an appointment with an occupational health nurse, for example, you should visit a dentist. Pain in the facial area can also be treated in cooperation with an otologist and a neurologist in order to guarantee fast and high-quality treatment.
Book an appointment for a dental check-up from Mehiläinen’s appointment booking service  or by calling our customer service on 010 273 8000. (0,0835 €/call + 0,1669 €/min)
Dental and oral health Digital Clinic is also open every day of the year.

The expert consulted for the article was Mehiläinen’s Chief Dental Officer Erkki Virta.

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