BRUXISM (GRINDING TEETH)

Nearly 1 in 3 people (including children) suffer from teeth grinding, or bruxism, causing severe tooth damage, jaw disorders and headaches. While teeth grinding can happen during the day (awake bruxism), the majority of people do it at night, often without knowing about it (sleep bruxism). Daytime teeth grinding often occurs as a result of stress, anxiety, or just a bad habit.

Sleep bruxism, is believed to be a sleep-related movement disorder often accompanied by sleep apnoea and snoring.

SYMPTOMS

– Fractured or flat teeth

– Teeth sensitive to hot, cold and sweets

– Pain in the jaw

– A headache located in the temples

POSSIBLE CAUSES

In children, research has linked asthma, upper airway infections, and anxiety disorders with teeth grinding. In one study, 62.5 percent of the children with bruxism also had respiratory problems. (5) While acute upper respiratory infections can cause this condition, if your child has chronic asthma, regular dental check-ups are advised to identify teeth grinding early before too much damage occurs.

Researchers have also found a direct relationship between the presence of an anxiety disorder, and the onset of bruxism, indicating that, like adults, anxiety can cause the hallmark symptoms of clenching, teeth grinding and gnashing. (6) Children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder should have regular dental check-ups to prevent long-term damage to the enamel of their teeth and to prevent chipping or breaking.

There is also evidence that suggests some children may begin grinding their teeth as a natural response to pain. These episodes may be temporary, like when a young child is teething or from an earache. This typically subsides when the pain or discomfort is relieved. As an aside, children with an aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality may be more prone to developing bruxism.

In adults, the causes of teeth grinding may reveal one or more of the following underlying medical conditions or prescription medication side effects:

  • Sleep apnoea
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • GERD
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Unresolved anger or frustration
  • Unmanaged stress
  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth
  • Certain psychiatric medications and antidepressants

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS

Often working together, a dentist and a physician will craft a care plan to help reduce the symptoms and tooth damage associated with this condition. An individualized plan may include any, or all of the following.

MOUTH GUARD

The most common conventional treatment is a custom-made splint or mouth guard, specially designed to keep your teeth separated to prevent further damage due to the grinding or clenching. While some people find a mouth guard to be uncomfortable, it is one of the best ways to protect the health of your teeth.

ALIGNMENT CORRECTION

If the problem is caused by improper alignment of the teeth, correcting the alignment, before too much damage is done, is a great long-term option. A dentist or orthodontist may recommend using braces, crowns, oral surgery, or reshaping the chewing surface of the teeth to make the teeth align properly.

PRESCRIPTION MUSCLE RELAXANTS AND ANTIDEPRESSANTS

Often when the cause is due to stress, depression or anxiety, doctors will prescribe muscle relaxants. While they may be effective, speak to your doctor about potential side effects as some commonly prescribed can adversely affect your liver or thyroid, while others may be habit-forming.

BOTOX INJECTIONS

When someone doesn’t respond to other conventional treatments, some doctors may suggest Botox injections. Researchers acknowledge there is limited research on the safety and efficacy of Botox for individuals with bruxism; however, it does appear it may be useful in reducing the myofascial pain associated with the condition. (7) While generally considered safe, speak to your doctor about any potential side effects of the Botox injection.

NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR BRUXISM

You may be wondering how to stop grinding teeth naturally. Depending on the root cause, one or more of the following treatments may provide relief and prevent further damage to the teeth, reduce pain in the face and ears, and improve sleep quality.

SPLINT &  COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY

In a study published in the journal General Dentistry, an interdisciplinary approach that included an occlusal splint combined with cognitive behavioural therapy was found to be significantly more effective than just an occlusal splint. Researchers believe the combination is more effective at achieving muscle relaxation, resulting in a better outcome. (8) The behaviour therapy component will help you learn proper mouth and jaw positioning.

BIOFEEDBACK

In cases where the healthcare team believes that teeth grinding is a habit, and not caused by an underlying condition, biofeedback may be recommended to help relieve the symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, this complementary technique uses equipment to teach you how to control the muscle activity in your jaw. (9) Initial studies indicate that it may be effective for both awake bruxism and sleep bruxism.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

To stop grinding teeth when you are suffering from stress or anxiety requires you to learn to manage and release your stress. Both children and adults can benefit from popular techniques like regular physical exercise, meditation, and essential oils. Of course, a healthy, balanced diet is also important, and avoiding any foods that may trigger an allergic reaction is vital.

VITAMIN C

As a complement to stress management techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy, boosting your intake of vitamin C can be beneficial when learning how to stop grinding your teeth. Vitamin C is used by our adrenal glands, affecting our response to stress. It is also essential in the making of dopamine, which helps to regulate moods.

MAGNESIUM

A couple of the common signs of a magnesium deficiency include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, restlessness and hyperactivity.  Adults can take 400 milligrams of high-quality magnesium supplement before bed to improve the quality of sleep. For children, follow the RDAs provided by the National Institute of Health for best results. (10)

In addition to supplementation, including foods naturally rich with magnesium, such as spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, kefir or yogurt, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, and bananas, may help you stop grinding your teeth.

B-COMPLEX VITAMINS

Like vitamin C and magnesium, the role of the B vitamins in our overall health and wellness is well-documented. Having a deficiency in any one of the B vitamins may cause psychological stress, depression and even panic attacks.

Vitamin B5 may be especially useful when you are trying to overcome bruxism.

VALERIAN ROOT

Used for generations as a natural sedative and anti-anxiety treatment, valerian root has been shown to improve the quality of sleep, with no reported side effects. (12) A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that 800 milligrams of valerian over an eight-week period improved the symptoms of restless legs syndrome and improved the overall quality of life. Since bruxism is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder, like restless legs syndrome, trying valerian root is warranted. (13)

PRECAUTIONS

Learning how to stop grinding teeth can help prevent long-term dental health complications, including worn enamel, chipped or broken teeth, and chronic pain in the face, ears and jaw. If left untreated, sleep bruxism may lead to extended periods of poor sleep quality and sleep apnea. It is important to find the right treatment to stop grinding teeth, day or night.