Definition of bruxism
Bruxism is the medical term used to describe the grinding and clenching of teeth. While it usually does not cause harm, prolonged grinding can damage teeth and give rise to oral health complications like jaw joint disorders.
Types of bruxism
Day and sleep bruxism
Awake bruxism is triggered by frustration, anxiety, stress, or tension. Sleep bruxism on the other hand occurs when one is unconscious during sleep.
Bruxism in kids
Bruxism in kids usually occurs at the second stage of sleep or during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Teeth grinding usually occurs around six times per hour and lasts about 4 seconds. The condition for kids and adults usually goes unnoticed until someone brings it up.
Symptoms of bruxism
Most people experience occasional bruxism. If the behaviour is infrequent and/or mild, treatment is often not necessary. But prolonged bruxism can inflict long-term damage to your teeth and jaw and is often a symptom of bigger problems like sleep disorders that need attention.
Grinding your teeth applies too much pressure on your teeth and weakens the enamel, making them more prone to chips and cracks. The clenching of the jaw also strains the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) that connect your lower jaw to the skull, risking headaches and other pains.
Most cases of bruxism are subconscious and can be detected rather easily. Look out for:
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw or face pain/soreness
- pain that feels like an earache
- Worn tooth enamel exposing deeper layers of your teeth
- Dull headaches originating from the temples
- Tired or tight jaw muscles
Bruxism can even alter the appearance of your face by unintentionally bulking on the masseter muscle. The masseter muscle is the cheek muscle that helps us chew and is one of the strongest muscles in the body.
If you suspect that you may be grinding your teeth, consult a dental professional.
Treatments for bruxism
Bite Splint or Night Guard
To help target your bruxism properly, you would require a trip to the dentist for a custom-made bite splint or night guard. The device works to reduce bite pressure with its superior cushioning materials and specifically moulded impressions of your teeth. The special dental acrylic is easier on tooth enamel than many of the plastics found in store-bought mouthguards.
Braces for Bruxism
Misaligned teeth can cause an abnormal bite and strain your TMJ by uneven distribution of pressure applied by your jaw muscles. A proper bite alignment achieved through straightening your teeth usually translates to fewer jaw issues.
While you will wear down your aligners faster if you clench or grind your teeth, a set of aligners is changed every 2 weeks. They also double up as a guard against teeth grinding.
Once you complete your invisible braces treatment and move on to retainers, you might find that your retainers wear down faster but you can always get new ones. Many people lose or break their aligners on accident so it’s common to get replacements for retainers.
So fret not if you’re a teeth grinder! Clear aligners are still for you.
Read more: how clear aligners compare to traditional/metal braces
Does bruxism cause headaches and tinnitus?
Headaches are one of the most noticeable symptoms of bruxism. Followed by tinnitus (earaches) and sinus pain, since the TMJ muscles surround these structures.
Yes, You Can Have Straighter Teeth Too
You can wear invisible braces even if you grind your teeth so you can get a beautiful smile.