Last Updated on August 10, 2022 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS
Epilepsy & Teeth Grinding
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by patterns or the random activation of seizure activity. Researchers still don’t know what causes epilepsy, although certain factors may predict its onset, such as tumors, strokes, concussions, even a genetic predisposition. Thankfully, epilepsy is not considered degenerative and is, for the most part, a manageable condition, with pharmaceutical and alternative treatments available.
What is a seizure?
A seizure is a sudden change in brain activity caused by increased electrical activity.
Also known as a convulsion, this increase in electrical activity can lead to something as simple as a silent period of staring or something more dramatic, including violent involuntary muscular contractions and/or unconsciousness.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism consists of excessive grinding, clenching or grinding of the teeth – usually unconsciously. According to the Bruxism Association, around 8-10% of the population suffers from this problem.Sleep bruxism is a condition with high prevalence in childhood and has multifactorial causes. The majority of sleep bruxers present no associated medical or psychiatric conditions. In these cases, the condition is called primary sleep bruxism. Secondary sleep bruxism has been reported in patients with psychiatric disorders or neurological conditions, including brain injury. However, as a sign of temporal lobe epilepsy, it seems to be a rare event.
Causes of bruxism
The cause of bruxism is still unknown. Teeth grinding can be related to mental, physical, and genetic factors. Stress, respiratory infections, allergies, earaches, and certain medications have also been linked to clenching the teeth.
Some people are more likely to develop bruxism than others. The most common factors that increase a person’s risk of developing bruxism include:
- Anxiety and stress: High levels of stress or anxiety can lead to increased teeth grinding when you are awake.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can increase teeth grinding.
- Genetics: Sleep bruxism tends to run in families, which means the condition can be passed down from generation to generation.
- Disorders: Dementia, night terrors, and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are commonly related to bruxism. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is also a risk factor for bruxism.
- Diseases that cause movement disorders: such as epilepsy.
Relationship between epilepsy and teeth grinding
Neurologists at Vithas Nisa Hospitals have warned that sleep disorders in children, such as insomnia, sleepwalking, night terrors, bruxism, and rhythmic movements may be related to a seizure that makes it difficult to rest.
Children with epilepsy can also suffer from parasomnias, episodic phenomena of a different nature that can appear in the first part of the night, during the REM sleep phase. Parasomnias disturb night rest and are more frequent in children, but they can persist into adulthood when they have a greater pathological significance.
Among the most common parasomnias is nocturnal bruxism, a habit that causes some children, preferably during adolescence, to hold their jaws tightly, causing them to swell during sleep or loosen, reducing functionality.
Seizures caused by temporal lobe epilepsy progress to orofacial movement disorders and stereotyped oral movements that resemble bruxism.
Treatment for bruxism
The treatment for bruxism and its consequences requires a multidisciplinary approach.
From the field of dentistry, the treatment is aimed at reducing pain and preventing tooth wear. Dentists can also repair the effects of bruxism on the teeth; making a correct diagnosis can help rehabilitate and reduce dental wear.
Mouth guards and splints
Most dentists recommend wearing a shock splint at night to protect the teeth. This sleeping mouth guard creates a clearance between the upper and lower jaw, preventing contact. The dental splint also absorbs some of the pressure exerted by squeezing.
An additional benefit is the reduction of noise caused by squeaking at night, which is a great relief to the patient’s companion. The teeth are completely covered by the dental splint, so there is no contact between the upper and lower teeth.
It is necessary to clarify that a dental splint is not a cure for this condition, no matter what the causes of bruxism are. Its purpose is to protect and prevent dental wear and allows the jaw and muscles to relax thanks to the reduced pressure.
The mouth guard has 2 important features:
- It must be made of hard acrylic and in no case of soft material.
- It has to be tailored to each patient, as a poorly made or poorly adjusted “discharge plate” can cause significant damage to the temporomandibular joint
Reducing stress, listening to music, taking a hot bath or exercising are all activities that can help you relax and reduce the risk of bruxism.
Other measures include physical activities and practicing healthy eating. Avoid eating very hard things. Also avoid using stimulants at night. Don’t drink caffeinated coffee or tea after dinner, and alcohol in the evening, as they can make bruxism worse.
Maintain good sleep habits. Getting a good night’s sleep, which can include treating sleep problems, can help reduce bruxism.
If the bruxism is diurnal, be aware of when you do it. Generally, it appears in moments of concentration, stress or anxiety, so learn to relax the muscles of your face.
Schedule regular dental exams; they are the best way to identify bruxism. Our dentists in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula, or Port Hueneme can see the signs of bruxism in the mouth and jaw during regular check-ups and exams