Addressing the Hidden Problem Of Teeth Grinding
With the Covid-19 pandemic dominating headlines, the medical and healthcare industry has their hands full as they try to bring hopes of a vaccine to fruition. Hidden behind the rapid onset of the viral contagion, certain ailments continue to flummox healthcare professionals and slip under the radar. Bruxism or teeth grinding, as it is more commonly known, is one such health issue.
While the term ‘bruxism’ may not ring a bell in your mind, it is in fact, one of the most common dental and sleep disorders in the entire world. Multiple studies indicate that over 8% of American adults have complained of teeth grinding. The numbers are even larger in kids, with over a third of American parents reporting that their children suffered or are currently afflicted by the disorder.
Bruxism is a complex issue that we do not completely understand yet. The issue takes on two forms – Sleeping Bruxism (SB) and Awake Bruxism (AB). As you might have figured out, sleeping bruxism is when one grinds their teeth at night, when the body is asleep while awake bruxism is noticeable during the day time. To add to the random uncertainty, awake bruxism is more common in females than males. Medical records show that bruxism is widely seen in children and the majority of patients seem to grow out of the ailment, which makes it rarer in adults. While the main symptom of bruxism is the grinding of teeth, it is also classified as a sleeping disorder due to its tendency to surface at night.
What is Bruxism?
It is the uncontrollable clenching of the jaw that causes friction between the teeth results in damage, wear & tear. The very crux of the problem is that bruxism is quite difficult to diagnose, particularly in cases of sleeping bruxism (which is the more common variant). A dentist can diagnose bruxism by observing the teeth and the jaws, However, patients reaching the dentist is another matter. Simply put, people who grind their teeth at night are usually never aware of this fact.
This difficulty in identifying sleeping bruxism is one of the many complications that affect its treatment. Another common problem is that some people treat it as a temporary issue and expect it to fade away, an approach that is common towards most dental problems. The grinding of teeth is almost impossible to naturally control and this can lead to anxiety, embarrassment and helplessness while the sudden flare ups and unexpected episodes can be wearisome to deal with.
What causes Bruxism?
As is the problem with cancer and mouth sores, doctors are yet to pinpoint the exact cause behind bruxism. Over years, research has been conducted to establish a recognizable pattern amongst patients such as hereditary links, genes etc but all attempts have been fruitless.
Meanwhile, there is evidence that gives medical researchers reason to believe that bruxism is the result of a combination of factors, especially in cases where the disorder carries into adulthood. Bruxism may develop in young children as a result of –
- Broken or missing teeth
- Uneven teeth distribution and shape
- Incorrect jaw alignment
These physical factors such as Improper jaw alignment and uneven distribution of teeth suggest that the genetic angle isn’t completely missing, even though it does not necessarily reflect in the patient’s immediate family medical history.
Unfortunately, data is not conclusive and there are more paths to follow. For example, in some cases of sleeping bruxism, teeth grinding begins as an accident before developing into a habit. To add to the various possibilities, teeth grinding can also be a sign of an underlying serious condition such as digestive or gastrointestinal related diseases. Of the available evidence, the most reliable takeaway is psychological issues such as stress and anxiety play a large role in bruxism and could be the main cause of the disorder. Surveys conducted by official government medical bodies show that bruxism could be a form of coping mechanism for stress and psychological reasons. This possibility is further strengthened by the fact that stress is a common disruptor of the sleep cycle and quality.
The Effects of Bruxism
The results of teeth grinding can be classified into short-term effects, which typically cause discomfort and pain. These include –
- Sores and Ulcers
- Bleeding gums.
- Headaches in the morning as you wake up
- Jaw ache
- Fatigue and tiredness due to the irregular sleep cycle
The long-term effects are more serious, for the grinding of teeth against each other results in the hard, protective outer layer of enamel wearing away. This can result in basic wear and tear of teeth and leaves them vulnerable to dental issues such as
- Dentin hypersensitivity (sensitive teeth),
- Cavities and root infection
- Severe, constant toothache and
- Reduced functioning of teeth in chewing food.
Treatment for Teeth-Grinding and Bruxism
In medical terms, there is no outright cure for bruxism, unless it is a temporary side-effect of an underlying disorder or disease. Luckily, that isn’t a stumbling block, as there are multiple viable treatment methods that limit the symptoms and discomfort, bringing noticeable relief to patients. Children in particular have a high chance of outgrowing bruxism, while most adults suffering from awake bruxism do not grind their teeth on a daily basis.
Awake bruxism can be controlled with practice and increased consciousness and care. On the other hand, sleeping bruxism requires monitoring and more attention, as it is beyond the patient’s control.
Typically, the treatment for bruxism includes physical therapy and exercises, however, the most effective treatment, especially for sleep bruxism, is the use of mouth guards. Hard, plastic guards that cover either the lower or upper set of teeth are highly effective and provide maximum safety and relief.
Think of a professional dental guard as a protective layer constructed of medical-grade, industrial-strength material. Professional mouth guards for teeth grinding and physical activity are extremely strong and designed to withstand the slow, harsh wear and tear associated with bruxism or teeth grinding, as well as the instant, high-power impact and trauma of blows involved in baseball, boxing, basketball etc.
Bruxism teeth guards are a well-rounded source of protection, as they not only protect the front of the teeth but also serve as a cushioning layer between the upper and lower rows to act as a dental splint for grinding.
To sum it up, mouth guards protect your teeth by –
- Shielding them from heavy impact and trauma during physical activity and sports.
- Preventing slow wear and tear due to bruxism and teeth grinding.
- Acting a tray through which products such as teeth whitening bleaches, creams, and gels can be applied and act on teeth.
High-quality mouth guards have a perfect fitting and can be used overnight and for extended hours. Medical-grade mouthguards are the most effective way to treat both types of bruxism.