Bruxism is a habit that affects around 8 – 10% of the population. It is broadly characterised by grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw that causes tooth wear and breakage, pain and limited movement of the jaw and headache. Bruxism occurs in both children and adults but it is common in 25 – 44 year olds. However, most people grind and/or clench their teeth to a certain degree.
Bruxism is classified into awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. Awake bruxism is characterised by involuntary clenching of the teeth in reaction to certain stimuli. There is generally no tooth grinding with awake bruxism. Sleep bruxism is characterised by automatic teeth grinding with rhythmic and sustained jaw muscle contractions.
Bruxism is further divided into primary, (that occurs without any prior medical condition) and secondary bruxism, where a medical or psychiatric condition is known. The teeth grinding observed during wakefulness and secondary bruxism can be associated with certain medications such as antidepressants or recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, and disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, depression and major anxiety.
There is no specific cure for bruxism and it is important to manage the consequences of the disorder. Various preventative measures may be offered including the use of an occlusal splint or mouthguard.
Occlusal splints (also called occlusal biteguard, bruxism appliance, bite plate, night guard) are the most common and effective method of protecting the teeth. The occlusal splint is a small soft plastic shield that is worn over the upper or the lower teeth. The splint covers the teeth and reduces grinding noise and muscle activity associated with sleep bruxism.
Construction and provision of an occlusal splint is quick and simple. Impressions are taken of the patient’s teeth using a soft material in preformed trays. The impression material usually takes a short while to set solid in the mouth. The impressions are then forwarded to our Dental Technician who produces stone replica models and produces a soft plastic occlusal splint. This will be ready to fit and checked one week after the impressions were taken. The dentist will check the guard fits well and is comfortable and will give instructions on how and when to wear it and how to care for it. Following the fitting there would be a series of review appointments to assess the success of the treatment.