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Sleep Bruxism

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Sleep bruxism (SB) is a sleep-related movement disorder characterized by grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep. This condition is common among 3 out of every 10 children. The highest prevelance is seen in individuals below 5 years. It is particularly common in children with cerebral palsy or severe mental retardation. Bruxism is extremely rare in children after the eruption of the permanent teeth.

Sleep bruxism has been linked to craniomandibular disorders including headaches, temporomandibular joint discomfort, chronic facial pain, premature loss of teeth due to excessive attrition, increased tooth sensitivity and sleep disruption of the individual as well as of the bed partner.14

Causes of sleep bruxism

The cause of SB is poorly understood. In children, SB may be related to growth and development of the jaws and teeth. It is thought to be the body’s response to malocclusion, which arises when the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together as they erupt.  Others suggest that children grind their teeth because of tension, anger or as a response to pain from an earache or teething.

The suggested causes of SB in adults include anxiety or stress, suppressed anger and sensitivity to brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. In some cases, it can be a complication of another disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. It can also be an uncommon side-effect of certain psychiatric medications including certain antidepressants.

Treatment of sleep bruxism

Although there is no definitive treatment, few preventive measures may be used in acute cases, particularly those involving pain. Following the exclusion of medical problems, the management includes strategies such as relaxation, physiotherapy and use of oral splint (hard acrylic or soft rubber device) to prevent tooth damage. The occlusal splint reduces grinding noise and protects the teeth from premature wear with no reported adverse effects. Antianxiety medications may also help but these drugs are potentially habit-forming.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: April 12, 2015

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