The term 'bruxism' is derived from the Greek word brugmos that means gnashing of teeth. It can occur during the day (diurnal) or night (nocturnal). In most people, it is not a major health issue. Though mild cases do not require treatment, medical assistance must be sought, when the condition leads to damaged teeth, headaches, or jaw-related disorders.
The contributing factors of grinding teeth might be psychological in nature, with anger or stress being the prominent ones.
When a person is under stress, his sleeping pattern can get disturbed. Under such circumstances, one might clench his/her teeth unconsciously and intermittently. Emotional stress, tension, and anxiety could be the triggers. People who suppress their anger or frustration often show signs of the condition in the day. These people do not let out their anger and then grind their teeth in frustration.
It has been found that people who are highly competitive or aggressive tend to clench their teeth, as well as fist. This is especially true when these people are frustrated or angry. These people will show physical signs of aggression like clenched fist and grinding teeth.
Misalignment of upper and lower teeth could also cause this condition. When there is something wrong with the teeth alignment, it is very natural for one to grind the upper teeth against the lower teeth.
People who suffer from sleep disorders like snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or other parasomnias like sleep talking, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations, violent behavior during sleep, etc., could get affected. When the person is going through the end phases of apnea, they might mumble or grind their teeth in sleep.
The use of psychoactive substances, tobacco or medications for anxiety could lead to this condition.
There are several disorders and diseases that are known to cause the condition. These diseases include Parkinson's disease and Huntington disease. The conditions make a person prone to teeth grinding during the day as well as night.
Most children overcome the condition by the time they reach adolescence. Some of the causes of teeth grinding in children include:
- Improper teeth alignment, especially when the dentition is still under process.
- Children may respond to pain by grinding their teeth.
- Children under stress or suppressing anger, especially a child who is abused.
After the cause is identified, the next step includes treatment. This includes stress management to overcome tension and fear, so as to make one get a more relaxed sleep. People who suffer from severe bruxism may be advised to wear a mouth guard or dental splint to avoid teeth damage. Misalignment of teeth may be corrected to overcome the unconscious need of grinding teeth.
In most cases, the habit of teeth grinding may resolve without medical treatment. However, if it is giving rise to jaw pain, headaches, and damaging your teeth, you need to seek medical help.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.