Bruxism: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Have you ever woken up with pain in your jaw muscles or temples or been told by your dentist that your teeth are being worn down? Have you ever cracked your teeth and didn’t know how that happened? If so, you may have bruxism, which is clenching or grinding of teeth due to contraction of the masseter, temporalis, or other jaw muscles. If untreated, bruxism can cause pain,tooth or enamel loss, jawbone resorption (loss), damage to the temporoman-dibular joint (TMJ), and accelerated aging of the lower face.

Awake bruxism occurs during the day, and patients may or may not be aware of it; it is frequently associated with stress, anxiety, or habit. Sleep bruxism is asleep-related movement disorder often caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. Most times people are not aware of the condition unless pain or their dentist bring it to their attention.

Treatment modalities have historically included mouth or bite guards, dental restoration, biofeedback, or stress-reducing measures. Neuromodulators, such as Botox or Dysport, may be injected “off-label” directly into those overworked muscles to decrease the frequency of clenching or grinding and resulting pain,often better than traditional methods. Additionally, Dysport injections slim the lower face by weakening the bulky, “beefed-up” muscles. Functional improvements and reductions in pain are usually noticed in two weeks and last for five to seven months. Facial slimming is notable at one month after treatment, peaks at 12 weeks, and lasts for nine to 12 months. Repeat treatments may be needed for habitual bruxers, but some awake bruxers note that Dysport injections help them break the habit.

Treatments are quick, nearly painless, and done without the need for anesthesia. They should not be done on women who are pregnant or nursing. Patient satisfaction is very high, and patients are often relieved to know that there are effective treatments available.

If you are suffering from unrelenting pain, tooth or enamel loss, or “chipmunk cheeks” as the result of clenching or grinding, call Betsy Perry Backe at Thacker Dermatology at (229) 469-4383 and schedule your consultation today.

Photos courtesy of Gilly Munavalli, MD, MHS, FACMS

Written by: Betsy Perry Backe, MD, FAAD

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