Grinding of the Teeth - Bruxism

 The term bruxism originates from the Greek word ‘brychein’, which means ‘to grind or gnash the teeth’. Bruxism includes repetitive jaw-muscle activities, clenching or grinding of the teeth, and/or bringing forward the mandible. Psychological, genetic, peripheral, and pathophysiological components constitute the range of the causes for bruxism. Treatment options include occlusal rehabilitation, behavioural, and pharmacological therapy. 

Bruxism can occur during day time (‘diurnal bruxism’ or ‘awake bruxism’) and is said to be the result of stressful responsibilities, work pressure, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Such a type of bruxism is more commonly seen in females compared to males. Grinding of teeth during sleep is known as ‘sleep bruxism’ and is considered as a sleep-related mandibular movement disorder. Nocturnal bruxers grind up to 40 minutes of every hour while they sleep, exerting around 110 kg of pressure on their teeth which becomes a cause for damage, cracking, and chipping of the teeth. Individuals who brux during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, snoring, and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).

Unlike in the case of adults, where the majority of teeth grinding results from stress and anxiety, bruxism in children seems to be a result of habit or due to the eruption of teeth. It is not usually necessary to treat bruxism in children under the age of 8 and should only be treated "when the habit is of sufficient persistence, duration, or intensity to damage the permanent teeth or cause other complications that affect the child's well-being”.

Secondary causes include sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, the side-effects of certain psychiatric medicines such as antidepressants like Lexapro, or even the abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth. This causes a condition known as malocclusion and can be diagnosed by one’s dentist.

Prolonged grinding may damage the jaw joint enough to cause osteoarthritis as well as bone loss in periodontal (gum) disease, although it does not cause gum disease. Not only is pain and sensitivity inflicted upon the teeth and gums, but the face and jaw can experience pain as well. Additionally, adverse problems associated with the temporomandibular joint, known as TMJ, can also develop from bruxism.

Some of the factors that make one more susceptible to suffer from bruxism include- 

  • Age: Bruxism is more common in young children and has been noted to decrease by adulthood.

  • Personality: Aggressive, competitive, and hyperactive type of behaviour and personality can increase the chance of teeth grinding.

  • Family history: Sleep bruxism seems to have a factor of genetics associated with it. 

  • Habits: Habits such as smoking, tobacco chewing, drinking caffeinated beverages, etc. may increase the risk of bruxism.

Some of the methods in which bruxism can be treated include-

  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and exercises - especially those which help relax the muscles of the neck and jaw.

  • Applying a warm washcloth just below the ears on each side of the head before sleeping.

  • Focusing on the mouth and jaw position by keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth. Keep the lips closed and teeth apart.

  • Wearing a nightguard which will redistribute the forces from grinding and protect the teeth from damage.

  • Taking a warm bath before sleeping which may temporarily relax the jaw muscles.

If such techniques do not relieve the grinding, visit the dentist. Sleep bruxism can cause serious harm to one’s oral and sleep health, and a health professional can help prevent more serious problems from arising or persisting. A doctor or dentist can also identify if your teeth grinding occurs alongside other conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which may require further testing or treatment.

Written By - Saumya Seth

Edited By - Sravanthi Cheerladinne

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