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What is Bruxism and Can it be Cured?

What is Bruxism and Can it be Cured?

BRUXISM is excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching, and causes tooth wear and breakage, jaw disorders, and headaches!

If you are prone to excessive jaw clenching or grinding of the teeth, you have what dentists refer to as bruxism.  It is a neuromuscular disorder that can happen either when you are asleep or awake.  The cause of bruxism is not totally clear, but one of the main causes is said to be psychological stress.

Severe bruxism in the form of jaw clenching can cause debilitating facial muscle pain and discomfort around the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), while teeth grinding wears away the tooth structure to the point where the biting surfaces of teeth appear flat and discolored, allowing the yellowish inner layer of dentin to show through, or even exposing it.  It can also cause tooth fractures and repeated failure of dental fillings, crowns, etc.  Our expert team at the Dental Experts Guatemala clinic in Guatemala City are well equipped to advise you on options and perform any necessary repairs.

More about Bruxism

Bruxism is not uncommon — it is a behavior that may affect as much as 8–31% of the general population.  Whether the bruxism occurs during sleep (sleep bruxism) or during wakefulness (awake bruxism), dental damage seems to be similar in both types, although they are thought to have different causes.

Some characteristics are:

Awake Bruxism

  • May occur during periods of concentration
  • Semi-voluntary
  • Males and females are affected in equal proportions
  • Symptoms may not be present at all on waking, but worsen during the day
  • Rarely any noises
  • May be stress related, especially emotional
  • In children, may be related to earache or teething

Treatment is usually behavior and habit modification.

Sleep Bruxism

  • Sleep position – lying face up may be a trigger
  • Associated with obstructive sleep apnea, loud snoring
  • May be accompanied by gastroesophageal reflux
  • More common in females
  • Symptoms tend to be worse on waking and improve during the day
  • A grinding or tapping noise during sleep
  • Involuntary rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA) *
  • Smoking: twice as common in smokers, related to dopamine release

Treatment is usually a night guard or splint, and possibly medication.

* The rhythmic muscle activity that occurs in sleep bruxism peaks in the minutes before rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This suggests that there might be some mechanism related to transitions in sleep stages that influence the motor neurons of bruxism.  This pattern may be repeated many times (maybe thousands) during the night.

Other treatments may include:

  • Occlusal splints *
  • Stress management
  • Medication
  • Botox
  • Biofeedback
  • Bite adjustment
  • Night guard **

* Splints can be either partial or full-coverage, depending on whether they fit over some or all of the teeth.   A splint is worn all the time, while a night guard is worn only during sleep. 

** A night guard can help, but it fails to treat the root cause of why teeth grinding occurs:  For example, if you stop breathing at night, as in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), your brain stimulates the grinding response. This motion pushes the jaw forward, reopening your airway, allowing you to breathe again.  Teeth grinding is a red flag for this serious underlying condition, so if you are experiencing sleep bruxism, you should be screened for OSA.  If you have sleep apnea, a night guard should only be a temporary solution because it can make bruxism worse by preventing your ability to push out your lower jaw, in turn preventing the airway from opening.

If you have damaged your teeth, and you need dental work to repair it, our dentists at Dental Experts Guatemala can provide you with options.  However, Bruxism must be treated first before dental restoration can be considered.

Whether you need treatment for bruxism or dental repairs because of it, we want to help you obtain healthy teeth, because that is vital to your comfort and well-being.


Let the expert team members at Dental Experts Guatemala answer any questions about your dental health.  Fill out the Contact Us Today form and a qualified dental specialist will contact you to discuss your case.