Understanding Bruxism

Bruxism is a fancy word for gnashing, grinding, or clenching teeth. That’s not very complex, but diagnosing and treating the disorder can be complicated. 

In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, we’re explaining this common but confusing problem. Read on for the details.

You might not be aware that you grind your teeth while you’re asleep. You might even do this unconsciously during the day and not be aware that it’s a problem. You might not have any physical problems from bruxism, but your dentist might see damage to your teeth. Or you might have uncomfortable symptoms like a headache, facial pain, or damage to the inside of your cheek.

Since you might not know that you are gnashing your teeth, it’s possible to misinterpret symptoms of bruxism. This might keep you from asking your doctor for help.

Which specialists work with bruxism?

Your dentist will check for bruxism, and can help with damage to teeth caused by the disorder. However, if your dentist or your primary care physician sees evidence of bruxism, the specialist they’ll send you to is a pulmonologist

Pulmonologists, lung doctors, also specialize in sleep disorders. Bruxism, especially at night, is considered a sleep disorder. It’s much more likely that people with sleep apnea or snoring will also have bruxism.

What causes sleep bruxism?

Stress is one of the most common causes of bruxism. Other things associated with this condition:

  • tobacco smoking
  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • depression

Lifestyle changes to get rid of these factors can be a sensible first step if you are troubled by bruxism.

However, it is a common problem, and is found among children as well as adults.

How is it treated?

Lifestyle changes can help. 

Many kids grow out of the condition, and adults may have only minor problems. Stress reduction and lifestyle changes. may be enough. 

If not, there are a number of other treatment options:

  • Mouth guards can be worn at night. 
  • Practicing proper mouth relaxation can solve the problem.
  • Botox injections are sometimes used in the short term for people who don’t respond to other treatments.
  • A muscle relaxant may be used in the same way.
  • Treatment for anxiety, depression, or sleep apnea may help.
  • Sometimes GERD or another health issue may be identified as a contributing problem. Treatment for the contributing condition can make a difference.

If you think you might have bruxism, talk with your dentist or your primary care physician, or make an appointment with a pulmonologist.