How Do I Manage Bruxism Pain?

Jillian O Keeffe

Bruxism pain derives from the muscle stress or damage to the teeth caused by grinding or clenching. As the condition is a result of a chronic activity, doctors do not typically recommend painkilling medication. Instead, people who suffer from bruxism pain can follow a course of treatment that attempts to alleviate the underlying cause, such as relaxation techniques or mouth guards. Home remedies such as massage or heat treatments can also give temporary relief.

An ice pack can help reduce muscle pain caused by bruxism.
An ice pack can help reduce muscle pain caused by bruxism.

The jaw's function is primarily to allow the mouth to open and close. It uses muscles and joints to move itself. When a person clenches the jaw too much, or grinds his or her teeth subconsciously, or when asleep, these jaw structures can become stressed, and the teeth can wear down. Some medicines, like antidepressants, can cause bruxism, as can conditions like depression. Stress may be a primary cause in people who do not have any existing illness.

A splint may be worn at night to prevent damage to teeth for people with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and bruxism.
A splint may be worn at night to prevent damage to teeth for people with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and bruxism.

Pain that results from bruxism is typically associated with the muscles of the head. Jaw muscles can be sore, and the patient can have headaches. Some people also experience earaches, due to joint pain in the vicinity of the ear. If the person grinds his or her teeth, the friction can wear down the tooth enamel, resulting in sensitivity to heat or cold, or even cracked enamel.

Individuals who clench their teeth unconsciously suffer from a medical condition known as bruxism.
Individuals who clench their teeth unconsciously suffer from a medical condition known as bruxism.

As bruxism pain is not treatable through medication, the focus in treatment is prevention of grinding or clenching. Stress, thought to be an important cause, can often be alleviated through relaxation techniques. Conscious control of jaw and tooth positioning can also help a patient retrain his or her automatic clenching tendencies.

Jaw muscles can be sore as a result of bruxism.
Jaw muscles can be sore as a result of bruxism.

Mouth guards or splints can cover the teeth during sleep and protect the surfaces from excessive wear, but may not produce permanent effects, and can in some cases make bruxism worse. If a patient grinds his or her teeth because the teeth do not align properly on the top and bottom rows, then orthodontic treatment can straighten the teeth, remove the grinding and thereby resolve the pain. Orthodontic procedures do not, however, solve the bruxism in all patients. Some patients may benefit from a dose of a muscle relaxant drug before bedtime.

If a patient cannot prevent bruxism through any of these initial steps, then he or she can only try to reduce the resultant pain. When the muscles of the jaw are strained, a heat pack or an ice pack on the affected area can reduce the soreness. Massage can also relax the tight muscles of the jaw, neck and shoulders that can lead to pain. When swelling occurs in the jaw, an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen may relieve the pain. An option for people who suffer extreme bruxism pain is a course of botulinum toxin injections, although according to the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., the benefits of this are not proven.

Massaging the affected area may help relieve neck pain associated with bruxism.
Massaging the affected area may help relieve neck pain associated with bruxism.

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