What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a very common condition in which people clench and grind their teeth. This can happen during the daytime – awake bruxism or during your sleeping hours – sleep bruxism.
According to estimates as many as one in every three people suffer from bruxism with the vast majority experiencing sleep bruxism. It can affect a person at any time of their lives from childhood all the way to old age.
Sleep bruxism is actually regarded as a sleep-related disorder. Those who grind and clench their teeth while they are asleep are more prone to other types of sleep disorder such as sleep apnea and snoring.
Mild forms of bruxism may not require any special medical treatment. However, in some people, the condition can be very frequent and sufficiently severe to lead to other problems. Knock on health effects of severe bruxism include headaches, jaw problems and damaged teeth.
Unfortunately people suffering from sleep bruxism may not even be aware of their condition until these complications begin to develop. It is important therefore that people are aware of the following signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of Bruxism
- Tooth issues including loose, fractured, chipped and otherwise damaged teeth.
- Worn enamel on the teeth.
- Grinding and clenching of the teeth during the night which may keep your partner awake.
- Sleep disruptions.
- Increased pain and sensitivity in the teeth.
- Pain and soreness in the neck, jaw and face area.
- A dull type of headache beginning in your temples.
- A pain similar to an earache which is unrelated to the ear itself.
- Damage to the inner cheeks from chewing while clenching and grinding the teeth
Causes of Bruxism
In children, the condition has been linked to asthma, anxiety disorders and infections to the upper airways. One study found that over 60% of children who had bruxism also had some type of respiratory disorder. (1) You should make sure that your child has regular dental check ups if your child suffers from asthma.
Researchers have also found a link between anxiety and bruxism. Both children and adults may clench or grind their teeth if they also suffer with anxiety. Children who have been diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder should also visit their dentist regularly to protect the teeth from damage.
In adults, bruxism may be a sign of one or more underlying medical conditions. The following conditions may all be linked to bruxism…
- Sleep apnea
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Abnormal tooth alignment
- Certain medications especially antidepressants and other psychiatric medication
In many mild cases, there may be no need of medical treatment. Children often outgrow their condition as they get older and adults may not grind their teeth badly enough to need treatment.
In the case of more severe bruxism, options can include medication, therapy and dental treatment or a combination to prevent any further damage.
Dental Treatment: Your dentist may recommend ways of preventing further damage to your teeth. These methods may help protect your teeth but do not necessarily put an end to the bruxism.
Mouth Guards or Splints: These help separate your teeth to prevent damage from grinding and clenching,
Dental Correction: If your teeth have been badly damaged or worn, your dentist may reshape the surfaces of the teeth or use a crown to repair it.
Behavioral Changes : Involving proper jaw and mouth position.
Anxiety and Stress Management: Relaxation techniques may help prevent bruxism related to anxiety.
Medication : Medication for bruxism itself is not very effective. However where the condition is related to another disorder like sleep apnea or GERD, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat the underlying health problem.
Home Remedies for Bruxism
The success of these natural remedies will depend on the underlying cause of your condition. There are many excellent herbal remedies that can help ease anxiety and other emotional disorders while others may help relieve pain and improve your quality of sleep.
1) Stress and Anxiety Management
For people whose bruxism is related to anxiety, there are a variety of very effective herbal remedies that can ease your symptoms. These herbal treatments also bring far fewer risks of dependency and adverse side effects. Nevertheless, you should speak with your doctor before using a herbal remedy on yourself or your child.
Some of the best herbal remedies for stress include:
Studies have demonstrated that valerian root has calming sedative properties and can improve a person’s overall sleep quality with no adverse side effects. One study published in 2009 found that valerian root taken at a dose of 800 mg a day for 8 weeks improved sleep issues related to restless leg syndrome. (1)
Chamomile is another excellent home remedy for stress and anxiety and has been used for many years to ease these conditions naturally. It can also help you get a better night of sleep with no reported side effects. If stress or anxiety is at the root of your bruxism, try drinking a few cups of chamomile tea each day and another before bed to help you with your sleep.
A wide variety of herbal teas can be used to alleviate stress and anxiety and may also help ease your tooth grinding and clenching. As well as chamomile tea, some of the best teas to drink include peppermint, lemon balm, lavender and passion flower tea.
Essential oils are one of the best natural methods of dealing with bruxism caused by stress and anxiety. There are many to choose from but some of the best include the following”
- lavender essential oil
- bergamot essential oil
- vetiver essential oil
- chamomile essential oil
- frankincense essential oil
- rose essential oil
- ylang ylang essential oil
There are several ways to use your essential oils for stress or anxiety related bruxism.
- Diffuse them using a diffuser machine.
- Inhale them directly from the bottle or from your hands.
- Massage them into your body making sure you dilute the oil with a carrier oil first.
If you are unfamiliar with essential oils, it is important never to apply undiluted essential oil to your skin and not to take them internally.
In cases of tooth grinding causes by habit rather than an underlying health issue, biofeedback is sometimes the recommended treatment method. Biofeedback is basically a complementary treatment technique which uses equipment in order teach someone proper jaw and mouth control. Some initial studies suggest that it could be an effective treatment method for both sleep and awake forms of bruxism.
3) Vitamin C
Vitamin C may work alongside stress management to prevent you from grinding and clenching your teeth. The vitamin is used by the adrenal glands and affects the stress response. It is also important in the production of dopamine – a chemical that helps to regulate mood.
Food rich in vitamin C include fruit like papaya, strawberries, currants, grapes and oranges as well as vegetables like kale, broccoli and peppers.
4) B Vitamins
The value of the B family of vitamins on your health is well -known. A deficiency on one of these B complex vitamins can cause physical and emotional issues including stress, depression or panic attack. Pantothenic Acid or vitamin B5 may be particularly helpful with regard to bruxism.
Like vitamin D deficiency, a lack of adequate magnesium in the system can cause many symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, hyperactivity and irritability. You may find that a magnesium supplement helps you to sleep better. Adults may take a dose of 400 mgs of magnesium before going to bed.
It is always better to get your minerals and vitamins from your diet where possible. Food rich in magnesium includes spinach, kefir, avocado, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, figs, bananas and dark chocolate.