Bruxism is a daily common condition that can be best described as teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw. People who are affected by bruxism usually find themselves unconsciously clenching their jaw during waking hours and grinding their teeth when they are asleep. Bruxism that occurs during sleep is considered a sleep-related movement condition and those who do grind their teeth while they sleep are more likely to have or develop other sleep disorders too, like snoring or sleep apnea.
Some cases of bruxism are mild and don’t require treatment, however some more severe cases can lead to chronic jaw disorders, headaches, and damaged teeth. All of these potential conditions are painful and can be debilitating in both the short and long term. It is important to identify this condition as soon as possible, which can prove to be somewhat difficult as it is commonly a problem that occurs more frequently while asleep. However once it has been identified, finding an effective treatment should be the next step in order to deter any future physical problems before they occur.
Signs and Symptoms
As mentioned, sometimes it’s difficult to know for sure if you’re suffering from bruxism since the most noticeable symptoms don’t often present themselves until the sufferer is asleep. There are, however, some common side effects to look out for which might lend themselves to work well as an indicator of a bruxism problem that then be looked into more closely. Some common signs of bruxism are the following:
- Teeth grinding and/or clenching of the jaw. Often this may be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner, so a good place to start is by asking them if they’ve noticed any unusual sleep habits.
- Teeth that are flattened. Grinding the teeth will often lead to them becoming flat, fractured, chipped, or lose in the mouth.
- Worn tooth enamel. The enamel on teeth can only last so long when it’s being subjected to nightly grinding. If the enamel is damaged on your teeth and deeper layers of the tooth are exposed, bruxism is likely.
- Increased tooth pain. Teeth grinding will often lead to pain or sensitivity of the affected teeth.
- Jaw issues. If you’ve noticed that your jaw is tired, tight, or in a locked position keeping it from opening or closing completely, this is a common sign of bruxism.
- Headache. These can happen because of a large variety of issues, but if a headache that starts at the temples is noticed in combination with any of the other symptoms, it could help reason out the issue.
- Biting the inside of your cheek. People who suffer from bruxism often find that they not only grind their teeth, but that they also chew the inside of their cheeks in the process. This causes damage to the inner cheek and can be painful.
Doctors and researchers are still trying to determine what exactly causes bruxism, but they still haven’t figured out an exact cause. The best they can determine is that it’s caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and even genetic characteristics. For the most part, bruxism is seen commonly in people suffering from anxiety, stress, anger, or tension.
There are also some factors that may increase a person’s risk of bruxism:
- Stress. One of the most common causes of bruxism is stress and anxiety. People who are suffering from increased stress are more likely to develop a teeth grinding issue. This is also true for those who react to their stress with anger or frustration instead of increased anxiety. They can still be affected by bruxism.
- Age. Bruxism is most common in young children, but is still known to occur in adults.
- Personality type. While not a definitive reason, those who have aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive personalities can often find themselves grinding their teeth as a way to cope.
- Medications. Bruxism is actually a side effect of some different medications, including those used as antidepressants or other for other psychiatric needs. Tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and other recreational drugs may also cause overnight teeth grinding.
- Genetics. Bruxism is commonly found within families. If your family has a history of bruxism, there’s a good chance you’ll also develop it.
- Other disorders. Sometimes bruxism is associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, epilepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea, and ADHD.
Traditional Treatment for Bruxism
Once bruxism has been discovered to be the issue, there are some common treatment options recommended by medical professionals. Usually they involve some self-care changes to a person’s lifestyle, such as using heat or ice on the jaw, avoiding hard foods, drinking plenty of water, getting lots of sleep, restorative stretching for the muscles on the side of the head, face relaxation techniques, and overall reduction of everyday stress.
In combination with those changes are usually some form of additional treatment options, including:
A dental guard is a very effective way to keep the bruxism from physically damaging the teeth. These products are usually made of plastic and fit over the upper and lower jaw and teeth. The guard acts to protect the teeth from abrasion and reduce the overall muscle strain associated with bruxism. The guards allow the teeth and the jaws to move easily with each other, with the goal of constraining the bruxism enough to avoid damage to the joints and teeth.
The guard will often also include some sort of markings on the surface of the device to help the user and their doctor see the patterns and extent of the grinding. A dental guard is usually worn during the night while the sufferer is sleeping. It’s meant to be used as a long-term addition to care, and is not considered a cure for bruxism.
A splint is designed to help protect the teeth from the pressure of clenching. Some splints fit over the top of teeth and some slip over the bottom. They are made to keep your jaw in a more relaxed position. While a splint may help reduce overall clenching of the jaw, some users have reported it actually makes it worse, or the pain comes back a short time later as the splint begins to lose its effectiveness over time.
A newer treatment for bruxism, some people have found success in using botox to lessen the effect of bruxism, however botox comes with some heavy side effects and risks. In treating bruxism, botox is injected into the jaw muscle with the intention of relaxing it enough to reduce the grinding and clenching of the jaw.
The injection is localized to the region of the jaw, however the risk of botox moving into the rest of the body is always present. This makes this particular treatment form the most risky.
How CBD Can Help Bruxism
One of the best forms of treatment is prevention, and that’s exactly where CBD comes into the equation when it comes to treating bruxism. Since one of the major causes of bruxism is stress and anxiety, it’s only natural that CBD be considered a reliable treatment option.
One study on the effects of CBD on people suffering from bruxism found that not only did it help them control their stress and anxiety levels , which are strong triggers that lead to cases of bruxism, CBD even helped treat the jaw pain that was associated with the condition. Because of its powerful anti-inflammatory  and pain relieving properties , CBD was found to be successful in offering relief to those participants who were experiencing issues related to their bruxism .
In the case of this study, the CBD was applied transdermally to really localize the pain and inflammation relief to the area of the jaw being the most affected . It stands to reason that a good treatment option could be a combination of both ingestible CBD to manage stress and anxiety and a topical treatment to target existing pain. Either way, CBD shows more potential for long-term prevention, treatment, and care then many other options. Considering it could be combined with something like a dental guard to ensure maximum return, it may be a life-changing solution for people who have been suffering.
Always talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment plan or adding steps to your existing plan. While CBD rarely has any complications with medication, there is a change it could interfere in some way. A quick chat with your doctor will help you better understand your current treatment plan and how CBD can be introduced into it in a safe and responsible way.