The act of clenching or grinding one’s teeth is known as bruxism. Bruxism can wear down enamel and dentin in the crowns of teeth, weaken metal or ceramic dental crowns, and make teeth mobile. Bruxism is classified as a complex disorder. Patients with GERD and/or obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of tooth abrasion and erosion; nevertheless, our understanding of the link between sleep apnea and bruxism is still developing.
Bruxism can happen both while sleeping and while waking. Bruxism can induce headaches, neck pain, and/or jaw pain in certain persons. Because the most severe and widespread grinding and clenching occur while the person is sleeping, he or she may be unaware of it, but family members may notice.
The patient must intentionally attempt to lessen bruxism when awake as part of the treatment. While sleeping, plastic oral appliances (night guards) that fit between the teeth and avoid occlusal contact can be used. A guard can also be worn during the day if the symptoms are severe. Dentists are usually the ones who custom-make and fit these devices. If the only issue is tooth wear, over-the-counter (OTC) heat-moldable devices can be fitted at home, but a dental evaluation should be performed first to identify the degree of the wear and whether an OTC device is suitable. Mild anxiolytics, such as benzodiazepines, may be helpful until a nightguard is available, but they should not be used for long periods of time.