Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching Treatment (Bruxism)Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Mild bruxism may not need treatment, but as a severe condition, it can cause the sufferer a number of complications affecting your teeth, jaw, face, head and quality of your sleep. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are involuntary reactions to negative emotions. Performed repetitively, these reactions can become unconscious habits without the sufferer being aware of an immediate stressor. Bruxism can be categorised into “awake bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”. As a reaction to certain stimuli, the involuntary daytime habit of jaw clenching is predominant with “awake bruxism”. With “sleep bruxism” however, both teeth grinding and sustained episodes of jaw clenching can become automated nocturnal behaviours. Primary bruxism is a further categorisation of bruxism in which it occurs without any prior or connected medical conditions. Secondary bruxism has links with certain medication, lifestyle-substances, medical and psychological conditions. Sleep bruxism can also be associated with certain sleep disorders. Both children and adults can suffer with bruxism, but the condition is most common with adults aged between 25-44 years old. There is no specific cure for bruxism. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatments usually focuses on the management of physical symptoms. Since negative emotions contribute to bruxism, hypnotherapy can play an essential part in your jaw clenching and teeth grinding treatment.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Bruxism causesThe exact cause of bruxism is not completely understood. It can be due to a combination of psychological, physical and genetic factors. Any potential teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment would match the underlying cause. There are certain factors that will increase your risk of developing bruxism: Age – Bruxism is prevalent in young to middle adulthood. Personality – Certain personality types can increase your risk of bruxism including those who are might fall under the classification of Type “A” personality. It includes competitive, aggressive, perfectionist, hyperactive and impatient personalities. Those with generalised anxiety and non-assertiveness characteristics can also be prone to bruxism. Family members with bruxism – If your family has a history of bruxism, you may be genetically predisposed to developing the condition. You may also learn bruxism behaviour from relevant authority figures. Medication and other lifestyle substances – Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can be a side effects of certain antidepressant medication. Other lifestyle substances that may increase the risk of bruxism include drinking alcohol or excessive caffeinated drinks, smoking tobacco, and using recreational drugs. Other medical conditions – Bruxism can be associated with medical disorders, mental health disorders and sleep-related disorders. These include dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, GERD, ADHD, depression and anxiety. Sleep related disorders include obstructive sleep apnoea and other parasomnias like sleep talking and hypnagogic hallucinations.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment: Psychological factorsStress and anxiety are considered as the originating, predisposing and perpetuating factors for many medical conditions. Stress and anxiety are major contributing factors for teeth grinding and jaw clenching habits. Along with the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and neck and shoulders, the jaw is a primary area to hold stress-related muscle tension. When you are in the “fight or flight” survival mode triggered by alertness to danger, the muscles around the jaw may contract as an innate or learned symptom of stress. The survival response of a general panic attack (which may also include jaw tension) is easily observed with phobias. Consider another situation like when you have crossed the road, but not noticed a car speeding towards you. You can identify the source of your immediate “danger” as the speeding car. For most people, the survival response will create a reaction where you contract the necessary voluntary muscles to dash out of the car’s pathway. In that situation, your jaw contraction may have been part of the “flight” physical template. With anxiety, the intensity of the danger is not usually as acute as the stress of the “speeding car” situation, but it can be recurrent. In addition to this, the situation triggering your anxiety may be weeks ahead and you may not always be able to identify the source of your “threat”. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching habits may persist throughout the period of anticipation and become a “standard” habitual coping mechanism when you worry about impending situations like an interview, exam or presentation. Other negative emotions such as frustration and anger can also trigger this recurrent survival response from a situation that has already happened. With frustration or anger the “danger” could be a threat to your self-esteem. For example, when you are angry, there is a “threat” that you are not being understood, your expectations are not being met, that you may lose control of a situation, or that you appear worthless or stupid. Constructively releasing your frustration or anger can help lower the stress related to your survival response. There are many ways to achieve this. Being able to “voice” your emotion is one useful venting method. However, in situations where you are unable to express these emotions in that moment, you may repress your frustration or anger. The emotion may then be “shelved” and “resurface” to be processed at a later time in other emotionally-related or non-specific situations. Some previous clients who have received teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment have mentioned that with daytime bruxism, the bruxism habit can be automated when concentrating on important work, where there is “danger” of being criticised from your boss or failing something like an assignment. The bruxism habits can also be active when doing something routine like housework or driving. For some drivers, driving is the trigger for anger (!), especially when you are stuck in traffic or you are running late and then are at risk of being judged for poor time keeping. Other clients who have received teeth grinding and jaw clenching treatment have mentioned how their bruxism symptoms have acted as repressed coping mechanisms in past “double binding” situations. With these clients, previous abuse and excessive control from cruel partners or overly strict parents had compromised their ability to express their frustration or anger. They were abused when they remained silent, yet any attempt to answer back the abuser would have been met with more abuse or severe punishment (a double binding situation). In these toxic relationships, clamping your jaw shut to “say nothing” was the method of survival. After leaving the relationship, these bruxism symptoms had stayed with the abused clients until seeking therapy. Is there a link between “awake bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”? Some researchers suggest that when you are unable to fully discharge these negative emotions and physical symptoms in the daytime, they can then be “replayed” during your dreams. Sleep bruxism thus potentially serves this nocturnal reprocessing function in an attempt to release the “unspent” frustration or anger from prvious situations, or to manage the anxiety of future negative situations.
Bruxism signs and symptomsSigns and symptoms of bruxism can include:
- Audible (loud) teeth grinding and jaw clenching that can wake your sleep partner.
- Damaged teeth with eroded enamel or teeth that have become flattened or fractured. This can affect how food is chewed sometimes causing you to bite the inside of your cheeks or your tongue.
- Teeth that have become sensitive and painful.
- Jaw joint problems – The TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) can become painful, fatigued especially when chewing food (abnormal bite), displaced (pops or clicks with movement), locked or cause other complications.
- Structures (muscles) surrounding the TMJ can become painful e.g. neck, face, ears (causing earache) and temples (causing headaches).
- Disrupted sleep and general fatigue caused by bruxism symptoms.