This repetitive jaw-muscle activity characterised by clenching or grinding of the teeth and/or bracing or thrusting of the jawbone is most common in children, teenagers and young adults. However, bruxism can affect all ages and with stress being one of the leading causes it’s not surprising that this condition is on the rise as “dentists are seeing an increased number of patients with jaw ache, neck ache and issues with their teeth,” shares dentist and EV expert Dr Rhona Eskander.
“Awake bruxism is often caused by negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, and anger. But it can also be a comforting coping action or simply a habit during deep concentration. While sleep bruxism may be a chewing activity associated with arousals during sleep. This sleep condition tends to occur in families, so if you have bruxism, other members of your family probably have a history of it too. Bruxism can also be associated with some mental health and medical disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)” adds Eskander.
And what does that mean for our teeth? Flattened, fractured, chipped, loosening, worn enamel leading to tooth pain and sensitivity go hand in hand with locked jaw, dull headaches, soreness and earache like pain.
How can you treat bruxism?As there are so many variables when it comes to the cause of this condition eliminating it altogether is nigh impossible. Generally, it takes a multi-pronged approach to alleviate symptoms. “We generally start by treating patients with splints and mouth guards as these are designed to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by clenching and grinding. They can be constructed of hard acrylic or soft materials and fit over your upper or lower teeth.
"We also advise patients to try to make lifestyle changes and positive stress busting choices to lower anxiety and stress. However, botulinum toxin injections are also being used more frequently to lessen grinding and jaw tightness in people with severe bruxism,” explains Eskander.
Botulinum toxin, aka Botox the brand name most commonly referred to – is a toxin that blocks chemical signals that cause muscles to contract. When injected directly into the masseter muscle, the main muscle used during jaw movement, it has the ability to weak thee masseter enough to stop involuntary grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. In so doing this will reduce tension in the jaw, alleviate headaches caused by grinding and clenching and protect the teeth.
“Just as when used to smooth lines and wrinkles, Botox takes about seven to ten days to kick in and typically lasts around 3 months. You may also notice that after the two-month mark that the shape of your face may soften around the jaw too, as years of clenching can build up the muscle and create a square jawline,” explains Eskander. So, not only will this treatment help you get the beauty sleep you deserve, it will also give you a little beautifying tweak too.
Rhona Eskander, dentist
In her final year at Leeds University in 2010, Rhona won the Best Case Presentation for her complex restorative case,...Book with Rhona Eskander