Bruxism is a habit of grinding and grinding teeth that is done unconsciously. This habit can be experienced by anyone, from children to adults. If this habit is not treated, people with bruxism have the potential to experience severe damage to their teeth.

In many cases, bruxism occurs spontaneously when a person is concentrating, feeling anxious, or experiencing excessive stress.

Bruxism may not initially cause serious health problems. However, over time, bruxism can have a greater impact, such as tooth decay, headaches, and jaw disorders that can cause discomfort.

Most people are not aware of bruxism until complications develop. Therefore, it is important for all of us to know the causes and symptoms of this condition in order to avoid a bigger impact.

Causes of Bruxism

Bruxism does not occur all the time, but appears when a person is under certain conditions, for example when he is under stress. However, until now it is not known for certain what things are the cause of bruxism.

There are several physical and psychological factors that can trigger bruxism, namely:

  • Feeling anxious, stressed, angry, frustrated, or tense
  • Have personality traits that are aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive
  • Have a family member with bruxism
  • Have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or sleep paralysis
  • Leading an unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking, consuming alcoholic beverages, or using drugs
  • Suffering from certain diseases, such as Parkinson's disease , dementia, acid reflux disease , or epilepsy
  • Taking phenothiazine medicines , such as chlorpromazine , and some antidepressants

Bruxism in children

Bruxism is also common in children when they are first teething and will recur when they begin to have permanent teeth. Generally, bruxism will stop when the child begins to enter adolescence.

Just like adults, bruxism in children can be triggered by stress, for example when facing a school exam. In addition, bruxism in children also occurs due to the influence of other conditions, such as abnormal arrangement of the upper and lower teeth, ADHD , malnutrition, allergies, and pinworm infections .

Bruxism symptoms

Someone with bruxism has a habit of grinding, pressing, or rubbing their teeth up and down, or right and left unconsciously. This can trigger other symptoms, such as:

  • The upper surface of the teeth becomes flat (not jagged)
  • Teeth become more sensitive
  • Jaw muscles become tense
  • Headache
  • Earache

Bruxism can occur during the day or at night, but is more common when a person is asleep ( sleep bruxism ). This can cause sleep disturbances in people with bruxism and their sleep partners because they are disturbed by the sound of grinding teeth.

In addition, someone who has sleep bruxism generally also has other habits related to sleep disorders, such as snoring or stopping short of breath during sleep ( sleep apnea ).

When to see a doctor

Check with your doctor or dentist if your sleeping partner says that you grind your teeth a lot when you sleep, especially if you are also experiencing the above symptoms. Early examination can prevent you from complications of bruxism.

Diagnosis of Bruxism

First of all, the doctor will conduct a question and answer session regarding the patient's complaints and symptoms, sleeping habits, daily routines, and routine use of drugs.

Next, the doctor will examine the condition of the patient's teeth to see the extent of the erosion or damage to the teeth. The doctor will also assess the stiffness of the patient's jaw muscles and the movement of the jaw joint.

If needed, the doctor will also perform a panoramic photo examination , to see tooth decay or jaw conditions in more detail.

Treatment of Bruxism

In most cases, bruxism does not require special treatment. Children who have bruxism can heal on their own without special treatment. In adults, treatment will usually be done if the habit of grinding teeth is too severe and causes damage to the teeth.

Actions that the doctor may take include:

  • Provision of protective teeth while sleeping to prevent tooth decay from getting worse
  • Installation of a new dental crown to repair a tooth that has been badly damaged
  • Giving muscle relaxants to be taken before bed
  • Giving botox injections to the jaw to relax stiff jaw muscles
  • Giving pain medication to treat jaw pain and facial pain

In addition, the doctor will advise the patient to compress and do light massage on the sore muscles.

As is well known, bruxism can be triggered by other conditions, such as illness or use of certain medications. Therefore, the doctor will also address the bruxism triggers if they are found.

For bruxism caused by stress or anxiety, some therapy will also be suggested to reduce teeth grinding. Therapies that can be done include:

  • Therapy to reduce stress and anxiety, such as meditation and yoga
  • Biofeedback therapy with the help of electromyography , to familiarize the patient with controlling jaw muscle activity whenever the muscles tense up
  • Behavior change therapy, to accustom the patient to stopping bruxism every time he notices it

If the bruxism does not improve with the above therapy, the doctor may refer the patient to a psychiatrist . Short-term administration of anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs accompanied by cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients control their anxiety and teeth grinding habits.

Bruxism complications

In some cases, severe bruxism can lead to serious complications. Here are some complications that may occur, including:

  • Teeth become cracked, rocking, even dislodged.
  • Long term tension headaches
  • Long term facial and ear pain
  • Inflammation of the jaw joint
  • Changes in facial shape
  • Insomnia
  • Tooth infection or even tooth abscess

In extreme cases, bruxism can interfere with chewing, speaking and swallowing. If left untreated, this can have an adverse impact on the nutritional intake and social life of sufferers.

Bruxism Prevention

Prevention and treatment of bruxism can be started from oneself. The following are some ways you can prevent bruxism:

  • Reduce excessive stress by doing fun activities such as listening to music, taking a warm bath, or exercising.
  • Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages , smoking, or using illegal drugs.
  • Avoid drinks that contain a lot of caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate, especially at bedtime.
  • Stay away from the habit of biting pencils or pens.
  • Reduce the habit of eating chewing gum.
  • Relax your jaw before going to bed by placing a warm towel over your cheeks and ears every day.
  • Practice reducing bruxism by pinching the tip of your tongue between your upper and lower teeth.
  • Maintain the same sleep schedule and enough sleep each day.
  • Check with the dentist regularly.
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