Teeth Grinding – Bruxism

Teeth grinding also known as Bruxism is a dental condition characterized by unconscious grinding and clenching of the teeth. The teeth grinding usually occurs at night during sleep, but small percentage of people do it while they are awake.

Bruxism or teeth grinding is a diurnal or nocturnal parafunctional activity, which is not a health problem in most cases. It is a habitual behavior that may develop as a response to traumas, allergic reaction to medications, unusual stress, anxiety, digestive disorders, etc. Once bruxism becomes habitual behavior, the original stimulus may not be present but the habit persists.

Interestingly, the majority of people are not aware that they have bruxism. Only 5 percent of the people experience symptoms such as headaches and jaw pain and seek treatment. One’s parent or partner may notice the symptoms initially, while suffers may feel pain without being aware of the real cause.

Bruxism may become a problem if it results in wear patterns on the tooth surface, occlusal trauma, fractures, and abfractions on the teeth. The damage increases over time and in fact, teeth grinding may cause gum recession and tooth loss. Jaw disorders such as limited jaw movement occur as well.

Research shows that bruxism affects between 8 and 10 percent of the population. Teeth grinding has been reported in children, but it is most common in adults aged 25 to 44. While bruxism disappears in children with time, adults can be affected for an indefinite period. Job-related, family-related, and health-related stress increases the occurrence of teeth grinding.

Teeth grinding can be divided into sleep and awake bruxism. Involuntary teeth clenching is observed in awake bruxism while tooth grinding is absent. With sleep bruxism, the jaw muscles contract rhythmically, and teeth grinding occurs.

Bruxism is also divided into primary and secondary bruxism. The latter has been associated with the intake of certain antidepressants, medications, and recreational drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine, as well as major anxiety disorders, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. Hungtington disease can also trigger teeth grinding. In general, bruxism has been linked to other sleep conditions, among which hypnagogic, sleep talking, injurious and violent behaviors, and hallucinations. Psychologists associate the condition with frustration and suppressed anger as well as aggressive personality. Inability to deal with one’s emotions has been observed in these cases. When sufferers can’t let anger out, the suppressed aggression causes them to grind their teeth. Dentists, on the other hand, claim that bruxism occurs due to improper alignment of the teeth. Psychological disorders tent to exacerbate the condition. One study has revealed that approximately 70 percent of people with sleep bruxism experience anxiety and stress. Alcohol abuse, excessive use of caffeine (six or more cups a day), and tobacco are also associated with teeth grinding. While these have been linked to bruxism, the exact causes of this condition are unknown.

Bruxism is difficult to diagnose because various factors are responsible for tooth wear. Electromyography or EMG is a reliable diagnostic technique. It detects electric impulses that come from the chewing muscles (temporalis and masseter). Electromyography takes place in sleep labs, but it is also available in bedside EMG units which detect electrical impulses coming from the facial muscles. The bedside unit is connected to electrodes which are attached to the sufferer’s face. ECG and TENS electrodes can be used to that purpose. Besides sleep labs and bedside units, biofeedback headbands can be used to diagnose the condition. They measure and record the clenching time and clenching incidents per night. The headbands are not connected to wires or electrodes attached to the user’s face. However, they do not record the strength, duration, and exact time of every clenching incident as precisely as the bedside units.

Bruxism cannot be treated and therefore, the consequences of the condition have to be managed properly. Preventative measures include medications, mandibular advancement devices, occlusal splints, and stress management techniques.


The information provided in this article does not constitute medical advice and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have a health problem you should consult a licensed physician.

Copyright © 2014 All rights reserved.; Teeth-Diseases.com