Many individuals occasionally grind or clench their teeth in moments of stress. However, those who suffer from chronic grinding and clenching can develop serious dental damage and jaw pain. Fortunately, there are bruxism treatments available to both ease symptoms and correct the underlying cause of the condition.
In most cases, dentists will begin with the most conservative solution. Simple, custom-made mouth guards provide enormous relief for most patients. On the other hand, restorative dentistry and orthodontic treatment can have tremendous benefits, especially for those who do not find a mouth guard to be effective. Some dentists are incorporating new techniques, such as neuromuscular dentistry, into their bruxism care. Looking at the relationship between the head, jaw, and neck, these treatments aim to ease muscle tension, improve posture, and relieve pressure on the jaw. With a range of options available, most patients can find long-term relief from their chronic discomfort.
Bruxism treatment can have enormous benefits for a patient's health and overall quality of life. Conservative options can help most individuals find relief.
What Causes Bruxism?
Bruxism, or chronic teeth grinding and jaw clenching, can have several causes and is often connected to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Many times, it is the result of stress. Typically, grinding and clenching will occur during sleep, but patients may experience symptoms at work or in other high-pressure environments. Less commonly, bruxism is the result of an imbalanced bite or missing teeth. Normally, the force of your bite should be distributed evenly across all of the teeth. When it is not, individuals may unconsciously grind their teeth as they attempt to restore proper alignment.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Bruxism may seem like a minor concern, but it can actually result in significant discomfort and severe dental damage. Unfortunately, because grinding usually occurs while patients are sleeping, they may be unaware of this unconscious habit. An analysis of symptoms can help a dentist make an accurate diagnosis. These side effects can include:
- Dental erosion
- Small cracks or chips in the teeth
- Dental sensitivity due to worn enamel
- Jaw pain
- Limited motion in the jaw
- Sores on the inside of the cheeks
- Swelling along the jawline
- Fractured teeth
After assessing symptoms, a dentist will evaluate a patient’s bite to determine the most appropriate treatment option. By targeting the underlying cause, rather than the symptoms, they can achieve a better outcome and longer-lasting results.
Mouth Guards: An Effective, Common Solution
Oral appliances are effective for the majority of patients. These devices, often referred to as dental splints, are simple and custom-made for each individual. Mouth guards are worn directly over the top teeth, or both dental arches, to prevent teeth from touching. Most patients only need to wear them at night, though some daytime use may be beneficial. Although several types of mouth guards are available at drug stores, dentist-supervised treatment provides more predictable results. Because the appliances are precisely fabricated using detailed impressions, they typically provide a more comfortable fit as well.
A mouth guard can prevent the teeth from touching, and in turn, excessive wear and tear.
Restorative Dentistry and Bite Correction
If alignment issues are the root cause of your condition, additional treatment may be required. A general dentist may collaborate with a restorative specialist or orthodontist to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend:
- Orthodontic care: Traditional braces or aligner trays can straighten crooked teeth and redistribute force across a patient’s bite.
- Dental crowns: Crowns can restore worn or broken teeth to their proper height, reducing the urge to grind and clench the jaw.
- Tooth replacement: Although bridges and dentures can restore lost or extracted teeth, dental implants are the most stable solution and are considered to be the most reliable way to treat bruxism.
- Surgery: In extreme cases, jaw surgery may be necessary.
Your doctor can review the treatment process for each, as well as the timeline and costs involved.
Because increased levels of stress usually contribute to bruxism, many dentists recommend lifestyle changes in addition to dental care. Simple steps could include breathing techniques or placing a limit on the amount of time you use your phone or computer before bed. Many patients benefit from working with a counselor or therapist, who can help them identify the cause of their ongoing anxiety. Yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can all help to lower stress levels. Jaw exercises or medications, such as muscle relaxants, may also be recommended.
Biofeedback and Neuromuscular Dentistry
Recognizing the integral correlation between the jaw and the rest of the body, many dentists are incorporating holistic techniques into their treatment for bruxism. Biofeedback is one of the latest and most effective trends. During an appointment, a medical practitioner will attach sensors to a patient’s jaw, which will monitor tension, heart rate, breathing patterns, temperature, and even perspiration. In this way, a dentist or physical therapist can help a patient identify increased stress. Then, the patient can learn healthier ways of responding to tension.
Neuromuscular dentistry is another branch of holistic dentistry that is rapidly growing. This approach incorporates several disciplines to achieve better balance between the jaw muscles, neck, and overall craniofacial structure. Treatment may include massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and electrical stimulation.
The Importance of Bruxism Treatments
Bruxism treatment can have enormous benefits for a patient’s health and overall quality of life. In the immediate sense, it can ease or entirely eliminate jaw pain and dental sensitivity. Over the long-term, it can greatly reduce the risk of dental damage. Patients can not only find relief from symptoms but may be able to avoid the hassle and cost of restorative treatment in the future.
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