Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be defined as the grinding of teeth for non-functional purposes. Bruxism is the habitual grinding of teeth when an individual is not chewing or swallowing.
· Daytime: Teeth grinding during daytime is called diurnal bruxism or bruxomania. It can be conscious or subconscious and may be associated with other habits like tongue-thrusting, nail-biting, etc.
· Nighttime bruxism: Nighttime teeth grinding is also called nocturnal bruxism. It is the subconscious grinding of teeth characterized by rhythmic patterns of facial muscles.
As bruxism or teeth grinding often occurs during sleep, individuals are mostly unaware of their habit.
· It can be caused due to underlying psychological or emotional stress. A tendency to grind the teeth has been often associated with the feeling of anger, aggression, over-enthusiasm, or anxiety.
· Teeth grinding or bruxism can be a manifestation of lesions in the central nervous system.
· Occlusal discrepancies or teeth interferences.
· Systemic factors: magnesium deficiency, chronic abdominal distress, intestinal parasites, etc.
· Periodontal pain or pain in gums and tooth-supporting structures may also trigger teeth grinding or bruxism in some individuals.
· Other factors: an over-enthusiastic student and compulsive overachievers may also develop the habit of bruxism or teeth grinding.
Effects of bruxism on your teeth
The effects of bruxism or teeth grinding on your teeth depend on the frequency, intensity, and to some extent, the age of the patient. The forces of bruxism are transmitted to the muscular apparatus which is involved in chewing food.
· Trauma to your teeth: this includes tooth mobility, toothache mainly in the morning.
· Trauma to your tooth structure: extreme sensitivity due to loss of enamel, atypical wear facets, vital tissue or pulp may get exposed, and multiple teeth fractures can be caused.
· Muscular: pain and tenderness of jaw muscles, muscular fatigue on waking up in the morning, inflamed facial muscles can also be observed in individuals who experience teeth grinding.
· Joint pain: Joint pain around the ears, clicking on opening or closing the mouth, restricted jaw movements are often seen in individuals with bruxism.
· Referred pain or headache can also be observed in such individuals.
History and clinical examination in most cases is sufficient to diagnose bruxism or teeth grinding. Teeth prematurity can be diagnosed with biting or chewing strips. Electro myographic examination is a process to record over-activity or hyperactivity of muscles involved in teeth grinding.
· Many cases of teeth grinding are associated with emotional and psychological disturbances. Thus, appropriate psychological counseling by a psychiatrist can be initiated.
· Hypnosis, relaxing exercises, and massage can help in relieving muscle tension.
· Teeth prematurity should be adjusted and eliminated.
· Nightguards or other teeth splints that cover the chewing surface of teeth help in eliminating occlusal interference, prevent teeth wear and break the habit of bruxism.
· Physiotherapy has shown some promising results in treating teeth grinding.
· Drugs: local anesthetic injection, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants are often used in combination with other treatments to correct bruxism.
· Acupuncture therapy
· Orthodontic correction of teeth can be advocated to correct misaligned teeth.
· Electrical method: electro galvanic stimulation for muscle relaxation.
If you suspect you are having the above signs and symptoms consult your dentist today and get your teeth checked. Your dentist will examine your teeth and mouth to look for signs and symptoms of bruxism. However, early morning pain around your ears, jaws, and constant dull headache on the side of the head may be the first indicating symptom of teeth grinding. Many times, individuals get informed about this habit by their loved ones who notice teeth grinding at night. Teeth grinding is not only seen in adults it is also seen in children. Bruxism in children is often noticed when their deciduous teeth emerge, and the period when their deciduous teeth are replaced by permanent teeth. No treatment is generally required for preschool children as this habit gets corrected by itself however in severe cases mouth guards or splints can be considered.
If your habit of bruxism or teeth grinding is related to some other underlying cause like a sleep disorder, central nervous system abnormalities, etc your dentist may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.