Bruxism is a condition that is characterized by teeth grinding or clenching. The upcoming passages provide comprehensive information about this oral parafunctional activity.
Bruxism or teeth grinding is a condition in which the affected person clenches or grinds his/her teeth unconsciously or involuntarily, either during sleep or when awake. People are often not even aware that this habit has developed until significant damage has been caused to the teeth and other parts of the mouth. It is speculated that this habit develops due to the psychological effects of daily stress.
In fact, teeth can be damaged to the extent that they are rendered useless. About 5 – 20 percent of the adults experience nocturnal teeth clenching, which is particularly problematic, since it is generally not noticed until substantial teeth damage has occurred (a process which can take years).
It is still not known what exactly causes bruxism although it is thought that it occurs due to a number of factors preceding it. These factors include stress, oral or facial trauma, malfunctioning of the nervous system, etc. It is believed that certain types of personality traits may also be the root cause. For example, those who are susceptible to nervous tension experience frustration, pain, or anger. It also tends to affect people who are very competitive, have less patience, and are aggressive.
The surface area of the upper and lower teeth, known as occlusal surface, is usually ground down to such an extent, that it creates an imbalance in the closure between the left and right sides of the mouth. This can cause periodontal disease and structural stress in the roots and tissues of the teeth.
One of the other effects is tempromandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). In this, the cartilage surrounding the joints of the upper and lower jaws gets irritated. This, in turn, can cause pain in the ears and jaw. Headache due to muscle and joint strain is one of the common symptoms. In a nutshell, some of the commonly observed indicants are:
- Abrasion of the teeth
- Damage caused to the tooth enamel
- The inside part of the tooth, the dentin, being exposed
- Teeth become oversensitive
- Pain in certain areas of the face
- Tense muscles of the face and jaw
- Jaw dislocation
- Indentations on the tongue
- Damage caused to the inside part of the cheeks
- Occurrence of a clicking or popping in the temporomandibular joint
Like in the case of other sleep disorders, it is the people living with the affected person who feel the brunt of the disease. This is because the sound of teeth grinding can be fairly loud and can disrupt the sleep of partners or roommates. As a matter of fact, it is usually the partner of the affected person or a member of the family who detects this parafunctional activity.
Since many of the above symptoms occur in other conditions as well, it is best to consult a physician or dentist for an accurate diagnosis.
The treatment for bruxism is based on two objectives: Firstly, reducing stress and secondly, taking care of the teeth to prevent them from getting damaged.
Stress reduction can be achieved by learning certain relaxation techniques. Activities that calm the body and mind, such as yoga and meditation can help in reducing psychological stress, which is known to exacerbate teeth clenching or grinding. The affected individual can also learn the technique of relaxing the facial muscles and jaws.
Behavioral responses leading to teeth grinding can be changed with the help of a biofeedback. Affected individuals can learn to control the effects of their involuntary nervous system by learning to respond properly to the changed conditions that affect the body.
A mouthguard or splints can be worn at night which will help in reducing the force of teeth clenching or grinding, thus, preventing the teeth from getting damaged.
The treatment will be largely based on the affected person’s ability to tolerate the above methods. The only hindrance is that treatments, like mouthguards and splints usually cause sleep disturbance, thus, aggravating stress. This can worsen the condition instead of alleviating it. Therefore, it is best to decide upon the treatment only after consulting with your dentist.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.