Is a dental term, which refers to gnashing, grinding, or pressing the teeth together. It is an unhealthy habit that 40% of all people do without realizing it. Consequently the effects of bruxing can be surprising.
Bruxing (grinding) your teeth, is one of those quiet health disorders which is completely invisible, and doesn’t require hospital care. Often, affected individuals do not even realize they do it. Initially, the condition may even be more disturbing to their partners. Most bruxers are nighttime teeth grinders. Strained muscles can become painful if left untreated and even injures the TM joint.
A bruxer is left with longg-term affects of nightly grinding. Bruxing can cause bone loss and loosening of teeth. Typically, people who brux also have a greater incidence of gum disease. Most grinding is done in little, short bursts as we go in and out of REM sleep (the deeper part of sleep).
Signs of Bruxing
In addition to the sounds of nighttime grinding, other signals of bruxiing include:
- Tired jaw muscles or hurting TM joints upon awakening
- Locking of the jaw and tendency to bite cheeks, lips or tongue
- Tenderness of the jaw muscles of the jaw joints
- Cheek muscles, which are larger, or more developed on one side than the other
- Broken or chipped teeth or fillings
- Teeth that have notches or indentations at the gum line
- Teeth which seem shortened or worn down
It is important to note that some people who clench will not have wear patterns on their teeth, but clenchers actually put more stress on the TM joints than grinders.
Occasionally, someone will awaken during the night with jaw or muscle pain. When we wake up in the morning, “normal” jaws should be the most relaxed.
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, but bruxing has not. It is estimated that over 40% of the population are nighttime grinders. Men, women and children are all equally afflicted.
Previously, stress or emotional tension and a bad bite were believed to be the cause of nighttime bruxism, but there is evidence that there are other components. Many doctors believe that bruxing may “cause” a bad bite instead of the other way around. Current studies show it to be a nervous system disorder. Brain wave activity is also a factor. It is easy to see why bruxing is a controversial disorder.
Daytime bruxing is usually stress and habit related, even though it may be the tremendous pressure generated by bruxing that results in malocclusion. 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 jaw should be in a rest position. During the day the rest position is “lips together, teeth apart.”
A Bad Bite and Stress
If one tooth hits before the others, the chewing muscles become protective. Rather than bumping into that spot each time, the teeth close and the chewing muscles maneuver 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 adapt and 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! The technical term for this is called pressure anesthesia. 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 the clenching.
When malocclusion, or bad bite exists, it produces poor development of the jaws. The bad bite can be a result of missing teeth, a high dental restoration or poor fitting dentures. Many professionals believe that the pressure applied to the joints from chronic clenching or grinding actually stretch and injure the ligaments and may contribute to disc dislocation.
People with internal derangement of the jaw joints are prone to TM joint pain. When the jaw hurts, the autonomic nervous system increases jaw tension. This is a muscle reaction to keep the hurting jaw from moving. If the patient has a bruxing and TMJ problem, it is a complication factor in treatment.
Some people can control daytime grinding once they are aware it is occurring. There are various ways bruxing can be treated which may include:
- Eliminating bite interferences and correcting the bite so the chewing muscles can function without undo strain and tension.
- Making a removal device (known as a orthotic), which fits over the upper or lower teeth. Its purpose is to protect the teeth from further damage and to temporarily correct the bite. Sometimes a patient is required to wear a splint full-time (except when eating) until normal muscle function is restored and any TMJ pain is resolved.
- Learning relaxation therapy to explore new ways of coping with everyday pressures of a career, family or traumatic events.
- Finding counseling to help manage tension and stress. In some cases, in-depth counseling may be in order to discover the sources of stress or discuss lifestyle changes. *Using biofeedback to learn to break the clenching habit and relax the muscles of your face and jaws whether awake or asleep.
- Certain medications are useful to decrease the bruxing pattern for a period of time in cases of severe nighttime bruxing. In early stages of treatment there are some medications your TMJ dentist may want to prescribe for a few weeks or months to help reduce the problem.
The most dangerous aspect of bruxing occurs when it goes untreated. This is because most people do not realize they do it. Take time to understand your health. Your health is the most priceless possession and worth the investment!