The clinical term used for teeth grinding is bruxism. It can be described as the habit of clenching the teeth consciously or unconsciously. This problem affects not only the teeth, but also other nearby structures including the brain. For this reason, it is considered as a medical as well as dental problem. It can affect both children and adults. Teeth grinding at night, is more common and it happens when the affected person is fast asleep. Before we talk about the treatment for this dental problem, let us learn about its causes and symptoms.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause behind the problem is unknown. However, it is commonly found in hyperactive and aggressive people. Psychological issues like anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration are often held responsible for this problem. Abnormal alignment of the teeth, also known as malocclusion, teething, pain in the ear, and growth of the jaw are some of the causes that can lead to bruxism in children.
In some rare cases, it develops due to the side effects of medicines, like, antidepressants or health problems, like, Parkinson's disease. Worn out or chipped teeth, sensitivity, facial pain, jaw pain, earache, and headache are some of the signs of regular teeth grinding. Children often show symptoms, like, thumb sucking, chewed tissue inside the mouth, gnawing on their toys that indicate the habit of teeth grinding.
There are many children who do not require any treatment and simply outgrow the habit with age. However, if it goes to a severe level, then the dentist needs to be consulted. Use of a mouth guard is one of the most popular methods of treatment. It can be purchased from drug stores or it can be custom-made from the dentist, which will fit better inside the mouth.
It has to be worn at night, so that it acts as a mouth protector and prevents teeth grinding in sleep. It also protects the tooth enamel, which is prone to serious damage by rigorous grinding of the teeth. Splint is another device used for this purpose. It is made of hard acrylic and fits over the upper and lower teeth. It is more expensive than the mouth guard, but has a better fitting.
If the problem is due to misaligned teeth, then it has to be corrected. Tooth sensitivity due to excessive wear and tear can cause difficulty chewing food. Dentists often use crowns in order to reshape the chewing surfaces of the teeth completely. However, this treatment cannot control the actual problem of bruxism.
As stress is considered to be one of the reasons behind bruxism, doctors recommend various relaxation techniques for stress management. This often involves exercises, meditation, and warm bath before going to bed. If parents talk to their children, suffering from anxiety problems, about their suppressed fears, the children can cope with the situation better.
Since it is a habitual problem for many, behavior therapy can be used to outgrow the habit. In this therapy, one has to practice a proper mouth and jaw position and thus, prevent the jaw from getting clenched. This can be done by keeping the tongue up while the teeth are apart and the lips are in closed condition. Hypnosis is another form of treatment which have been proved to be highly beneficial for many people.
In general, medical treatment for this problem may not yield satisfying results. Muscle relaxants are often prescribed, which should be taken before bedtime. Improvement has been found in some severe cases with the help of botox injections. When it is caused due to the side effects of medicines, changing them can bring about improvement in the condition.
Thus, bruxism treatment is usually based upon the underlying cause. However, there is no magical solution to eliminate this problem. The right treatment method has to be chosen to overcome the problem. Also, it is extremely important to note that a particular treatment may not be suitable for all and hence, finding the cause of the problem becomes crucial.