What is teeth grinding, also known as ‘bruxism’?

Griezimas dantimis

What is teeth grinding, also known as ‘bruxism’?

Bruxism is the most common sleep disorder. The process is described as a forceful contact of the biting surfaces of the upper and lower jaw teeth. Normally, teeth are occluded only when chewing, speaking and swallowing. Teeth grinding at night is an involuntary action and many people encounter it at least once in life. Occasional episodes do not pose any danger and no treatment is required.


What are the root causes of teeth grinding? What are the underlying factors?

There are explanations that teeth grinding may be a trait of people having a certain personality type, and that the involuntarily teeth clenching results from stress. However, there is no need to worry about it, as it certainly does not last an entire lifetime. People may encounter this problem during puberty, as well as a person may have a habit of involuntary teeth clenching (while the jaws are not moving and there is no grinding sound) and the grinding may start at a certain point of life, when experiencing increased fear, stress or anxiety or strong emotions related to work or family issues.

It is also believed that certain medications, such as antidepressants and anti-epileptic drugs, may stimulate teeth grinding. The grinding may also be associated with Parkinson’s disease, depression, as well as may develop due to irregular occlusion and inadequate oral hygiene. Undeniably, another direct cause could be inheritance: it is quite likely that children will inherit the teeth grinding habit of one of the parents.


When do teeth grinding take place?

During day, it manifests by a more frequent clenching of teeth, which a person can still control. The stress experienced throughout the day often leads to teeth grinding at night. The majority of teeth grinding instances totalling about 80% occur during night sleep. They recur during a certain period of sleep, as a muscular contraction caused by the central nervous system. The jaw movements are involuntary and chaotic. In addition to teeth grinding, people who have troubled night sleep also might suffer from sleep talking, snoring, and apnea. It is important to know that teeth grinding manifestations differ, as all people are different: some may have several grinding episodes overnight, while others as many as 8 or 20.


Do teeth grinding occur in children as well?

Of course. There are children whose milk teeth are worn. Though teeth grinding may intensify during puberty, it most often affects people aged 25-44.



How is it diagnosed?

Usually, persons seek dental practitioners help and are aware of their teeth grinding problem because of the people sleeping next to them. Typically, the same common symptoms are indicated: headache or jaw muscles pain, which spreads to the ear, in the morning, tight shoulder muscles and sleep disturbances. However, the most specific indications evidencing teeth grinding are worn teeth and increased tone of jaw (chewing) muscles. Surely, tooth wear may be caused by variety of other reasons, such as harmful chemical substances, increased stomach acid levels, and certain foods, therefore, the diagnosis may be established only by a doctor.


What kind of damage is caused to teeth by increased grinding or clenching?

Teeth grinding causes trouble for about one third of population. Western dentists have been discussing and writing about this problem for a long time now, while in Lithuania the discussions concerning this harmful process are relatively new. Increased teeth grinding may lead to lower jaw joint problems, cause headaches and pain in the areas of facial muscles and ears, tension in shoulder muscles, sleep disturbances, increased teeth mobility, inflammation and worsen chewing function. Involuntary teeth grinding during night sleep continuing for years sometimes damages the teeth so badly that they need a prosthetic treatment.




Is there any medication to treat teeth grinding?

No specific medication-based treatment is available. The grinding most commonly occurs involuntary while sleeping, therefore, it is difficult to control. During a day, a person is able and should try to make a conscious effort to control the situation, however, we advise you to contact a dentist to address the issues concerning teeth grinding at night. The dentist will identify the causes and start the treatment, as well as may offer using a protection against teeth grinding: special mouth guards to be worn overnight on the teeth of one of the jaws. The mouth guards protect the teeth from further wear, cause muscles to relax, as well as protect the joint. However, if a person has been suffering from teeth grinding for a long time and the teeth are already damaged, a prosthetic treatment is required.

Clinical treatment methods: protective mouth guards; mouth guards for teeth grinding.