Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) Treatment

There are two primary objectives in the treatment of bruxism: stress reduction and tooth care.

Relaxation therapies may reduce stress associated with habitual teeth grinding. Meditation and body-calming activities are thought to reduce the psychological stress that seems to aggravate bruxism. Biofeedback training may reduce the occurrence of nocturnal grinding. Biofeedback programs train people to control their involuntary nervous system with learned responses to fluctuating body conditions. During a training session, a monitoring system emits sound to alert the patient to these fluctuations. Participants then learn to recreate states of relaxation, breathing patterns, and pulse rates that help them relax and achieve a calm emotional state. (See also: stress management.)

To prevent further tooth damage, a dentist may fit the patient with a rubber mouth guard called an "o-guard," or occlusive guard.

Current Models of Bruxism Treatment and Terms Related to Bruxism

Bruxism affects a growing number of people. Heightened publicity about teeth grinding has led to increased public awareness and, consequently, new ways of discussing, treating, and managing the problem. For example, people who grind their teeth are often referred to as "bruxers" and "to brux" means to grind the teeth. Some physicians are now developing support communities for bruxers.

Efforts at detecting and managing bruxism include not only the o-guard but also new and controversial treatment devices. One detection method involves the insertion of liquid-filled capsules into the mouth of a bruxer. These capsules, which are attached to an orthodontic retainer-like device, rupture when gnashed and release a rather bad-tasting liquid. This liquid alerts the bruxer to his or her grinding, which ostensibly leads to confirmation and treatment. The devices associated with bruxism detection and treatment include: oral splints, such as hydro, acrylic, metal, partial, full, and so on; sleep alarms, such as headbands; electro-monitors (all of which respond to jaw clenching); and drug treatment, which is typically considered temporary and limited.

The treatment method selected depends ultimately on what the bruxer finds tolerable and most comfortable. Unfortunately, some of these treatments can lead to sleep disturbance and add stress, which can complicate the condition rather than alleviate it.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Dec 2000

Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011