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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why Do I Grind My Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)

Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth; it is a reflexive action rather than a learned habit. Bruxism stems from the natural chewing activity that is controlled by reflex nerve pathways which are activated during sleep. Chewing depends on higher control functions from the brain and when a person is asleep, those control functions are deactivated which can result in bruxism.

What Are the Causes of Bruxism?

While the exact causes of bruxism are still relatively unknown, researchers believe that there are significant factors involved. Some factors include, being overly stressed, sleeping problems, an abnormal bite, and crooked or missing teeth. In some cases children may grind their teeth due to a misalignment of their top and bottom teeth.

In adults, mental factors seem to be associated with Bruxism, including:
  • anxiety, stress or tension
  • suppressed anger or frustration
  • aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type

What Are the Symptoms of Bruxism?

  • abraded teeth
  • facial pain
  • oversensitive teeth
  • tense facial and jaw muscles
  • headaches, dislocation of the jaw
  • a popping or clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • tongue indentations
  • damage to the inside of the cheek
  • teeth that are worn down, flattened or chipped
  • worn tooth enamel, exposing the inside of your tooth
  • increased tooth sensitivity
  • jaw pain or tightness in your jaw muscles

How Do I Prevent Bruxism?

If you find that your teeth grinding is related to stress, try to find ways to help yourself relax. Also, one can reduce consumption of stimulants such as caffeine or tobacco to reduce bruxism. Lastly, teeth grinding can be prevented by wearing a bite plate or a bite splint at night.

Can My Bruxism Be Treated?

The treatment of Bruxism depends on the following factors
  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

How Do I Treat Bruxism?

Behavior modification
Training the patient how to rest his/her tongue, teeth, and lips properly, and learning how to rest the tongue upward may relieve uneasiness on the jaw while keeping the teeth apart and lips closed.

Mouthpiece
A specially-fitted plastic mouth appliance may be worn at night to absorb the force of biting. This piece of equipment may help to prevent future damage to the teeth and help in changing the patient's behavior.

Biofeedback
Biofeedback involves an electronic instrument that measures the amount of muscle activity of the mouth and jaw. This is especially helpful for daytime bruxers.

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