Reports claim that the incidence of bruxism in the general population can range from 8 to 31%. Some patients, who have suffered from brain injury, including strokes, brain damage, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, can present cases of bruxism as a secondary disorder of these conditions. Bruxism is usually an unconscious activity, with involuntary gnashing, grinding, or clenching of teeth. It can happen when the individual is awake or at sleep, often associated with stress, fear, anxiety and in some cases, triggered by occlusal irregularities.
Patients can suffer from bruxism even during its early stages of dementia. Although this tends to be an overlooked complication by physicians, it can be extremely difficult for patients and caregivers to deal with the issue.
Symptoms and Complications of Bruxism
The excessive grinding or clenching exerts intense pressure on the jaw, leading to uncomfortable pain and complications that are even more serious.
Common symptoms include:
- Acute or Chronic Pain
Common aches or pain can progress from mild to severe, but this is a healthy and functional response of the body. It is trying to show something is not working correctly and need to be taken care.
- The sensitivity of the Teeth
The teeth can’t support grinding for long periods, causing deterioration and fractions on the roots. Sensitivity then can occur either on a specific tooth or generalized, being hard for the patient to ingest hot or cold food and liquids. This symptom can come and go sporadic.
- Jaw Pain
Like any other muscle, the jaw can present fatigue or inflammation due to overuse. The pain can be felt either when opening the mouth or in a resting position.
- Muscles, Neck Pain and Headache
Bruxism can affect all facial and head muscles and may lead to chronic headaches and pain. According to The UK Bruxism Association, patients with this condition are three times more likely to experience headaches than non-bruxers. Even if the patient doesn’t feel pain, some physical effects can be noticed, as the enlargement of the muscles, causing a square jaw appearance.
If untreated, bruxism can cause higher risks of dental infections, teeth loss, severe headaches, and temporomandibular joint destruction.
Tips on how to Manage Teeth Grinding
Some solutions can provide relief of the symptoms, although not all will solve the root cause. It is indicated to visit a doctor for a better assessment of the case.
- Mouth Guards
Mouth Guards or Night Guards are one of the most popular treatments for sleep bruxism. The goal of this therapy is to redistribute occlusal forces, relax muscles, protect the teeth and reduce bruxism. Depending on the strength and frequency of grinding, the mouth guard can last from months to years.
The patient can choose generic, or custom-made mouth guards. Generic ones are not as comfortable as the custom and can be found with three variations: small, medium and large. Custom made mouth guards offer a better fit and comfort. But health insurance often doesn’t cover this treatment. Families are often surprised by how expensive it can be if custom made with the dentist.
If you are looking for an affordable solution, some custom mouth guards can be purchased directly with the dental lab, instead of requesting it through a dentist. We recommend the best mouth guards, ProteethGuard.com. On their website, you can choose a professional and custom-made night guards depending on the patient needs. From severe cases to moderated ones, this solution will help ease the teeth grinding for an affordable price.
- Muscle pain
Due to the intense pressure on the jaw and face muscles, patients can develop severe pain in the region. Apply some ice or heat on the sore muscles daily to relieve the pain.
- Chewing problems
Try to prepare foods that are not hard to eat, but remember to opt for ingredients with all vitamins necessary for the patient.
- Exercises, Massages, and acupuncture
Grinding and clenching affect the masseter muscle, the largest and strongest muscle of the orofacial structure. Stretching exercises and massages on the face can help to relax the region. Acupuncture on its turn is meant to re-align structural imbalances, reduce tension, manage the pain and calm the nervous system.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, tobacco, alcohol drinking, and recreational drugs
Lifestyle choices can increase the bruxism symptoms, mainly if the patient use psychoactive substances like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Although many believe the contrary, a glass of wine before bed is not helpful at all. The alcohol consumption can trigger muscles during the sleep, intensifying the bruxism in patients.
Caffeine and tobacco also should be avoided, since they act as stimulants. They can promote muscle activity, even a few hours after its consumption. According to studies, bruxism in tobacco users is twice worse as in non-users.
Recreational drugs as ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine (meth) and heroine are also central nervous stimulants, which act over neural transmitters. These neural transmitters are essentials for tasks as learning, memory, sleep and body movement.
- Engage in relaxing activities
Stress causes mental and physical tension, and maybe an intensifier to bruxism. It is also believed depression and anxiety play a role in developing or worsening bruxism cases. Meditation, yoga, music and social connection can help the patient to relieve the stress.
- Calcium and Magnesium
Magnesium and Calcium deficiency can cause muscle spasms, involuntary movement, and cramps. Increasing the level of both elements can reduce the severity of grinding.
- Calming herbs
Herbs with relaxing properties can help with muscle tension. Hops, Valerian and Chamomile, are some of the herbs recommended to assist the patient’s case.
Bruxism is not something to be overlooked. It can hold a heavy toll on both patients and caregivers. Look for assistance as fast as possible, and we hope these tips can help you provide a better quality of life for your loved ones.