Bruxism is the involuntary ”nervous” grinding of the teeth while a patient is asleep. Bruxism is the technical term for grinding and clenching that abrades teeth and may cause facial pain. People who grind and clench called bruxers unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times such as in their sleep. In addition to grinding teeth bruxers also may bite their fingernails pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. Bruxism affects between 10-50% of the population and is a subconscious behavior so many people do not realize that they are doing it.
What causes bruxism is largely unknown though several factors are thought to precede its occurrence. These include stress facial or oral trauma nervous system malfunction poor diet and allergies. Alcohol and drug use is suspected to increase the occurrence of bruxism. Children with bruxism usually stop grinding their teeth before adulthood. However bruxism can affect adults for an indefinite period of time. Adults with bruxism have increased occurrence of grinding during times of job family or health stress.
Bruxism can lead to pain and cause damage to gums and other oral structures. Some of the problems associated with bruxism are outlined below.
· Sore Facial Muscles Headaches and Ear-Aches
· Cosmetic Damage from teeth being ground down
· Sensitive Teeth due to the enamel of the tooth being worn away
· Fractured Teeth and Fillings Temporomandibular Joint Damage
One of the main problems related to bruxism outlined above is Tempromandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ) in which the cartilage around the joints of the upper and lower jaws becomes irritated. This irritation can cause pain in the jaw and ears. Headaches associated with joint and muscle strain are common symptoms associated with bruxism.
The meeting surfaces of the upper and lower teeth can be ground down so much that an imbalance in closure between the left and right sides of the mouth is created which can result in periodontal disease and structural stress to the tissues and roots of the teeth.
Diagnosis of Bruxism is fairly simple and usually a dentist will detect or bruxism when during a routine checkup they discovers the characteristic wear on the teeth. Wear associated with grinding is most evident on the molars which are in the back of the mouth. The diagnosis is generally based on the patient’s dental history.
There are two primary objectives in the treatment of bruxism. These objectives are stress reduction and tooth care.
Relaxation therapies may reduce stress associated with habitual grinding. Meditation and body-calming activities are thought to reduce the psychological stress that seems to aggravate bruxism. Biofeedback training may reduce the occurrence of nocturnal grinding. These are programs that train people to control their involuntary nervous system with learned responses to fluctuating body conditions. During a training session a monitoring system emits sound to alert the patient to these fluctuations. Participants then learn to recreate states of relaxation breathing patterns and pulse rates that help them relax and achieve a calm emotional state.
To prevent further tooth damage a dentist may fit the patient with a rubber mouth guard called an “o-guard” or occlusive guard. The mouth guard takes the punishment that your teeth would normally endure during your bruxism and helps minimize the damage associated with bruxism.
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