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Bruxism — what is it? And, why does it sound scary? According to UK-based The Bruxism Association, “bruxism is classified into awake bruxism and sleep bruxism.” What defines the two? What can you do to get relief?

Awake Bruxism v. Sleep Bruxism

“Involuntary clenching of the teeth and jaw bracing in reaction to certain stimuli” characterizes awake bruxism. Interestingly, the association quoted above explains that “there is generally no tooth grinding with awake bruxism.”

On the other hand, “automatic teeth grinding with rhythmic and sustained jaw muscle contractions” characterizes sleep bruxism. What’s more, medical professionals further divide this condition by primary and secondary roots. Wherein the issue “occurs without any prior medical condition,” is the primary category. And, “where a medical or psychiatric condition” is clear, is the secondary.

Interestingly though, only with sleep bruxism is teeth grinding an issue. Needless to say, some additional factors may also be culprits. In specific, “antidepressants or recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, and disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, depression and major anxiety.”

Relief, Where Art Thou?

The Bruxism Association list 6 methods of treatment. But, it also notes that most treatments need to be cleared by your physician. And, some techniques have little to no scientific backing.

First, muscle relaxation exercises.

“Physical rehabilitation techniques have been thought to assist in correcting [the problem.]” What is the objective? To strengthen the jaw opening muscles to hold the mandible in place.

Second, pharmacology.

In other words, medication. “Drugs such as muscle relaxants have a temporary effect on jaw muscle activity, although the maintenance of their therapeutic efficacy, their long term tolerability and risk of addiction need further investigation.” You may respond well to treatment, but two thirds of patients in one study dropped out because of intolerable side effects. Yet, there are thousands of sedatives and anxiolytic drugs to choose from.

Third, Botox.

Now, here’s where things get interesting. Botox is highly toxic and is often used in cosmetic treatments. However, because its aim is to paralyze or weaken the muscle where it’s injected, it’s a viable option for bruxism! “The evidence on Botox usage in non-cosmetic conditions of the head and neck is convincing and from research to date we should consider botox to be just as effective as other treatments,” says the association.

Fourth, sleep hygiene.

Obviously, you should avoid stimulants, like coffee, tea, and cigarettes. And, You definitely should try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. But did you know that “better sleep means that more time is spent in the deeper sleep stages”? But, as for teeth grinding, “no studies into sleep hygiene as a successful treatment . . . have been published.”

Treatments five and six have very little information available as to their scientific backing. They are Biofeedback and NTI-TSS. One, “biofeedback works on the premise that [you] can ‘unlearn’ [the] behavior when a stimulus makes [you] aware of [your] jaw muscle activity.” However, the association notes, “the potential for continued sleep disruption and subsequent daytime sleepiness is high and therefore this technique is not considered a safe treatment.” (Italics ours.)

Whereas Nocieceptive Trigeminal Inhibition – Tension Suppression System (NTI-TSS) “is a device that fits over the two front top incisors to prevent them from touching the lower teeth, thereby decreasing muscle tension.” But please note, there is very little clinical evidence of its effectiveness.

Your Nightmare, Your Choice

How can you decide which treatment is right for you? Do your own research. While Botox is safe and effective, it also has some side effects to note. And, of course, you want a qualified physician to discuss your treatment options with. Make sure to ask specific questions pertaining to your needs. Check out our article on Botox’s efficacy rate and safety.



The information provided herein has been reviewed for accuracy, but cannot be guaranteed to be free of infallalacy. The information herein does not qualify as a diagnosis nor does it substitute a consultation with a licensed physician.

© 2018, 2019 ALLIED MEDICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Published: 20180227
Revised: 20190906

Post Author: Dr. Mirza

With over 15 years of experiences as a licensed physician, Dr. Muhammad Mirza is very knowledgeable in cosmetics. Having specialized in neurology, our doctor knows exactly how to contour cosmetic products to your needs perfectly. Dr. Mirza takes his knowledge and shares it on his website, in his offices, and across various other platforms.