or grinding your teeth, is one of those quiet health disorders which
doesn't hurt, is completely invisible, and doesn't require hospital
care. Often, afflicted individuals do not even realise they do it.
Initially, the condition may even be more disturbing to their partners.
Most bruxers are night time teeth grinders. The grinding noises can
keep lightly sleeping roommates awake. Eventually, however, it is
the bruxer who is left with the long-term effects of nightly grinding.
Bruxing can cause bone loss and loosening of the teeth. Typically,
people who brux also have a greater incidence of gum disease.
In addition to the sounds of night time grinding, other signals
of bruxing include:
jaw muscles upon awakening and the morning
'locking' of the jaw and a tendency to bite the cheeks, lips,
tenderness of the jaw muscles of the jaw joints
muscles which are larger, or more developed, on one sided than
or chipped teeth or fillings
which have notches or indentations at the gum line
recession and sensitive teeth
which seem shortened or worn down
Why Do People Brux?
Bruxing has been around for a long time. Many skulls of cavemen
exhibit short, flat teeth. Some ground their teeth away altogether!
This was due to a combination of diet, poor hygiene, and bruxing.
Over the years, our diet and hygiene have improved. Bruxing, however,
has not. It is estimated that over 50% of the population are night
time grinders. Men, women, and children are all equally afflicted.
Bruxing is thought to result from a combination
of emotional tension and a bad to bite. Clinching the teeth is associated
with anger in both humans and animals. People learn to suppress
their emotions by keeping their teeth together. This can become
an unconscious habit. You may learn to keep your teeth together
all the time as a response to tension without realising you're doing
'Lips Together, Teeth Apart'
Many people do not know that most of the time,
the upper and lower teeth should not touch. Except when chewing, swallowing,
or talking, the teeth and jaws should be in a rest position. By rest
position we mean 'lips together, teeth apart'.
A Bad Bite
A bad to bite is
another contributing factor to bruxing. If the
teeth do not meet properly, or if one tooth hits before the others,
the chewing muscles will become protective. Rather than bumping
into that tooth each time they close the jaw, the chewing muscles
will manoeuvre around the interference. You wouldn't intentionally
drive your car over a pile of glass in the road - you would swerve
to miss it, then resume your course. Likewise, the chewing muscles
will learn to bring the jaw around the high spot each time the teeth
close. This places extra strain on the muscles and eventually they
become tired and painful.
To reduce the
pain, we do a peculiar thing - we clench harder! Technically this
is called pressure anaesthesia. Babies do this by biting against
a teething ring to decrease the pain of erupting teeth. Or, as adults,
we may press on our temples to decrease the pain of a headache.
When our teeth stay constantly clenched, however, it worsens the
condition. The teeth and jaws become more misaligned, which increases
Bruxing is thus a teeth clenching and grinding habit
which comes from a combination of emotional tension and a bad bite.
To treat it, the dentist must eliminate interferences and correct
the bite so that the chewing muscles can function without undue
strain and tension. Often, a removable device (known as an orthotic,
or 'splint') is fitted over the upper or lower teeth to protect
them from further damage and to temporarily correct the bite.
Relaxation therapy can also be an important aspect
of treatment to explore new ways of coping with stress. Biofeedback
is a particular technique which teaches you to break your clenching
habit and relax the muscles of the face. In some cases, more in-depth
counselling may be in order to discover the sources of stress or
discuss lifestyle changes.
The most dangerous aspect of bruxing is that most
people do not realise they do it! Take time to understand your teeth.