More commonly known as excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching, bruxism is the medical term for this condition. It can take place when you are awake (awake bruxism) or when you are asleep (sleep bruxism).
In this guide, we seek to answer some of the most frequently asked questions on bruxism in Singapore.
How do I know if I have bruxism?
As you may clench or grind your teeth (brux) unconsciously, most people may not know that they are suffering from bruxism until complications develop. Therefore, if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, you are encouraged to visit a dental specialist / dentist for a detailed examination.
- Teeth grinding sounds which may be loud enough to disturb the sleep of someone you are sharing the room with
- Damaged teeth (ie. flattened, fractured, chipped or loose)
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Pain or soreness in the jaw, neck, face, ear or temples
- Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that has difficulty opening or closing completely
- Temporomandibular joints that makes a popping or clicking sound when opening or closing
- Disrupted sleep
What causes bruxism?
The exact causes for bruxism is not always clear, but for majority of the cases, it has been attributed to high level of stress and anxiety. High levels of stress at work or home can negatively impact your sleep quality and cause sleep bruxism.
Other reasons for bruxism include sleep disorders (such as obstructive sleep apnea), side effect of certain medications, lifestyle factors (such as consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking or caffeinated drinks) and poor bite or misaligned (crooked or missing) teeth.
Can bruxism take place in children?
Bruxism is quite common in children, especially among children below five. The common causes of bruxism in children is irritation, allergies or misaligned teeth.
As their teeth and jaws are still developing, most of them outgrow of the habit by the time they transit into teens or adulthood. Hence, treatment is generally not required unless the habit is causing excessive dental wear. Nonetheless, it helps to teach your child to be aware of their clenching (awake bruxism) habit, so they can consciously reduce and cease it.
If you find that your children is bruxing, share it with your child’s dental specialist / dentist so that they can advise on the possible causes and treatment options if necessary.
Why is bruxism harmful?
Other than pain and serious discomfort, bruxism can damage and wear down your teeth to stumps if it takes place over an extended period of time. When this happens, replacement of teeth may be needed.
It can also affect your jaws, causing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw joint disorders, and even change the appearance of your face (ie. larger muscles at the jaw, causing a square jaw).
On a daily basis, bruxism has a negative impact on your quality of life when it comes to eating and sleeping.
It is also linked to other medical conditions such as night-time breathing problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, moodiness and gastroesophageal reflux.
What takes place during your dental appointment?
During your dental visit, your dental specialist / dentist will examine your dental condition by checking on the following:
- Tenderness in your jaw
- Presence of damaged or missing teeth
- Condition of existing teeth, bone and inner cheeks
In most cases, a clinical and radiographic (dental x-ray) examination will be carried out.
Your dental specialist / dentist will also identify the possible cause of bruxism for you through a series of questions about your daily routines, medications and sleep habits.
From there, the possible treatment options will be proposed for your consideration.
What are the various treatment options for bruxism?
Depending on the cause of bruxism, your dental specialist / dentist may propose one or more of the following treatment options:
- Diet adjustments: go on a soft diet and cut food into smaller pieces so as to reduce the amount of chewing
- Lifestyle adjustments: reduce intake of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco
- Stress management: go for activities that will help you to relax, such as deep breathing exercises, massage and so on
- Medications: muscle relaxants and/or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed when necessary to ensure better rest at night
- Botox injections: to help to relax the muscles at the jaw and provide tremendous relief from jaw soreness
- Professionally made night guard (splint): Customised based on your dentition, this will help to prevent your teeth from further damage when you grind during your sleep
Can Medisave be used?
Medisave can only be used for surgical procedures, hence it is not applicable for bruxism treatment.
Bonus question: What is the difference between bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder?
It is easy to be confused between bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder as they are commonly associated and interrelated with one another. However, they are very different conditions.
Bruxism is a condition which occurs as a result of teeth grinding and clenching.
While TMJ disorder is a painful medical condition whereby the jaw joints are inflamed and there is improper functioning of the muscles and joints that attach the lower jaw to the skull. This can contribute to headaches, dizziness and pain during biting and chewing.
Bruxism can be caused by TMJ disorder, but bruxism can in turn also cause or worsen TMJ disorder.
If you experience symptoms of bruxism or TMJ disorder, do arrange to see your dental specialist / dentist as soon as you can so that treatment can start early to prevent further damage and reduce the discomfort you experience.
Specialist Dental Group’s Team of Dental Specialists
We have a team of dental specialists that are qualified in diagnosing and treating bruxism and TMJ disorder. They fall under the specialty areas of Prosthodontics and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.
- Dr Tan Kian Meng, Prosthodontist
- Dr Steven Soo, Prosthodontist
- Dr Edwin Tan, Prosthodontist (Gleneagles)
- Dr Neo Tee Khin, Prosthodontist
- Dr Ansgar Cheng, Prosthodontist
- Dr Ho Kok Sen, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon