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Bruxism

Bruxism refers to an oral parafunctional activity that occurs in most humans at some point in their lives.   Grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur during the day or at night.

Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders and causes most of its damage during sleeping hours.  The clenching and grinding which accompanies bruxism is symptomatic of a malfunctioning chewing reflex, which is turned off in non-sufferers when sleeping.  For sufferers, deep sleep or even naps cause the reflex nerve control center in the brain to turn off and the reflex pathways to become active.

Typically, the incisors and canines (front 6 upper and lower teeth) of opposing arches grind against each other laterally.  This side to side action puts undue strain on the medial pterygoid muscles and the temporomandibular joints.  Earache, depression, headaches, eating disorders, and anxiety are among the most common symptoms of bruxism; these symptoms also accompany health issues such as chronic stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and alcohol abuse.

Bruxism is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, because it is only one of several potential causes of tooth wear.  Only a trained professional can tell the difference between bruxing wear and wear caused by overly aggressive brushing, acidic soft drinks, and abrasive foods.

A BiteStrip® is an economical device used to diagnose bruxism at home.  The device itself is a small electromyography which senses and monitors any activity in the jaw muscles during sleep.  The frequency and severity of the condition can then be assessed and the best treatment plan can be formulated.

Reasons for the treatment of bruxism

Here are some of the main reasons why bruxism should be promptly treated:

  • Gum recession and tooth loss – Bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession and tooth loss. It damages the soft tissue directly and leads to loose teeth and deep pockets, where bacteria can colonize and destroy the supporting bone. 
  • Occlusal trauma – The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures in the teeth, which may require restorative treatment.
  • Arthritis – In severe and chronic cases, bruxing can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints (the joints that allow the jaw to open smoothly).
  • Myofascial pain – The grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth.  This can lead to debilitating headaches and muscle pain in the myofascial region.
Treatment options for bruxism

There is no single cure for bruxism, though a variety of helpful devices and tools are available.  Here are some common ways in which bruxism is treated:

  • Mouthguards – An acrylic mouthguard can be designed from tooth impressions to minimize the abrasive action of tooth surfaces during normal sleep.  Mouthguards should be worn on a long-term basis to help to stabilize the occlusion as well as prevent damage to teeth and to the temporomandibular joint.
  • NTI-tss device – This device is fitted by a health professional and only covers the front teeth.  The goal of the NTI-tss is to prevent the grinding of the rear molars by limiting the contraction of the temporalis muscle.
  • Botox® – Botox® can be injected into the muscles to relax and weaken them.  Botox® is an excellent treatment for bruxism because it weakens the muscles enough to prevent grinding but not enough to interfere with everyday functions like chewing and speaking.

Other methods of treatment include relaxation exercises, stress management education, and biofeedback mechanisms.  When the bruxing is under control, there are a variety of dental procedures such as crowns, gum grafts, and crown lengthening that can restore a pleasant aesthetic appearance to the smile.

If you have questions or concerns about bruxism, please contact our office.

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Testimonials

Dr. Hekmat and all of his staff are gentle and friendly. They take the fear out of going to the dentist. He has done quality work on my teeth for the last three years and fixed problems I had from previous, poor quality dental work too! I am more than willing to drive 40 miles from where I live because I've never had such a great dental experience anywhere else!

Taylor w

Dr. Hekmat is absolutely wonderful, I couldn't imagine going to anyone else. He and his entire staff are caring and knowledgable; the quality of care is as good as it gets.
This is not your typical dentist experience. When I walk in today for my appointment, there was no check-in process- the assistant working at the front desk recognized me and told me the hygienist would be with me shortly (2 minutes later, right on time). They actually take the time to get to know their patients, which is especially comforting for those of us who get a little antsy when it comes time for a dental appointment.
The facility is top-notch. It's incredibly clean, TV in the lobby, and the chairs have massagers in the back so you can focus on something besides having your teeth cleaned. The pictures on their website might look too good to be true, but it's just genuinely that nice.
Dr. Hekmat and his staff are all phenomenal. They know what they're doing, take the time to explain what they're doing, and to answer questions. I would recommend Dr. Hekmat to anyone looking for a dentist or to change dentists, he's the best!

Chelsea S.

Dr. Hekmat's offices are so clean, soothing, and modern that it almost (ALMOST ... it's still the dentist!) feels like visiting the spa when you visit. I drive up all the way from the UTC area because I trust him and his staff with my teeth and my jittery nerves! They even take a photo of you at your first visit, so that when you come back, the receptionist greets you by name and already knows who you are - very welcoming, and a unique touch. Even the lighting is warm and relaxing, and the view from the chair is of a large, grassy pond filled with ducks.

Dr. Hekmat himself is friendly, calming, and talented. He replaced several silver filings with white filings for me - and he was really, really fast. Which was really appreciated by me, because I'm a big baby when it comes to the dentist. Several months later, and I'm silver-free and my filings have done great.

Ann M.

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