Bruxism is the technical name for grinding, gnashing, and/or clenching your teeth. It is considered a para-functional activity, which means an abnormal or deviated dental function or habit that is subconscious. The term Bruxism comes from the Greek word “brygmós” which means “to grind or gnash the opposing rows of upper and lower molar teeth”. Occasionally, we see patients for endodontic therapy because the high pressure clenching has resulted in fractures of the tooth.
On average, your upper and lower teeth come into direct contact for about 20 minutes a day, with only 20-40 pounds of pressure. People who suffer with Bruxism’s upper and lower teeth come into direct contact for as long as 40 minutes per hour, with a force of about 250 pounds!
The grinding, gnashing and/or clenching mainly occur unconsciously; in most cases while you’re asleep. In more severe cases, some people find themselves clenching during the day as well. If you catch yourself clenching be sure to stop and stretch your jaw – move your lower jaw back and forth in a circular motion, changing rotation. Hearing popping or clicking noises is fairly common in people with Bruxism, so be sure to inform us if this occurs as it can indicate Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) as well as Bruxism.
Bruxism can cause your teeth to become worn down, fractured, and/or chipped. It can also wear down your tooth enamel, leading to increased tooth sensitivity and susceptibility to cavities. Not only does it deteriorate your teeth, it can also cause headaches, earaches, chronic facial pain, and jaw tension.
You should make an appointment with your dentist if you’re experiencing a combination of any of the following issues:
Symptoms of Bruxism
- Grinding sound at night
- Dull headache in the morning
- Facial Pain
- Tight or painful jaw muscles, especially in the morning
- Worn down, flattened, fractured, or chipped teeth
- Tired jaw muscles
- Anxiety, stress and tension
- Eating disorders
- Hot, cold, and/or sweet tooth sensitivity
- Painful, sore jaw
Possible Causes of Bruxism
Because the origin of Bruxism is not completely understood, any number of the following items may be possible causes:
- Experienced and anticipated stressors are considered a main factor. People who are stressed often carry tension with them to bed, causing them to grind, gnash and clench at night
- Suppressed anger, frustration, and aggression
- Misaligned upper and lower teeth (malocclusion). The verdict is still out as to why malocclusion is such a common component with Bruxism, but doctors have found that it is prevalent amongst sufferers
- People with depressive and anxiety disorders are more likely to suffer from Bruxism
- Bruxism is an uncommon side effect of certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants
- Often Bruxism is partnered with other sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, sleep walking, and nightmares
- Bruxism can be a result of complications from a disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- Stimulating substances such as smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated beverages and/or alcohol, taking illegal drugs such as methamphetamines and ecstasy also increases the risk of Bruxism
- Age – Bruxism is common in children, but typically goes away by adolescence (See below for Bruxism in Children)
Other things such as diet, your ability to relax, low pH levels (high acidity), posture, and sleeping habits may also be contributors.