Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, describes the clenching or grinding of the teeth due to overactivity of the masticatory muscles. Teeth grinding occurs mainly at night and is mostly due to stress and mental overload.
What is teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding is grinding or clenching your teeth despite an empty mouth. This means that the crunching does not serve to crush the food, but is an unconscious movement of the chewing muscles. For internet addiction definition and meaning, please visit howsmb.com.
Due to the high forces with which the chewing muscles can press the teeth together, long-term damage and signs of wear occur on the teeth and jaw joints. In addition, there is tension in the neck and jaw area, which can ultimately also trigger headaches or tinnitus.
Teeth grinding usually occurs at night during sleep. But unconscious teeth grinding can also occur during the day, for example in phases of great tension or great concentration.
The causes of teeth grinding are mostly due to psychological tension, pressure to perform and stress or to situations in which the person concerned accepts a lot, literally “grinding his teeth”. Since the body mainly processes stress during sleep, teeth grinding is particularly pronounced at night.
In rarer cases, misaligned teeth or poorly fitted dentures can also be the reason for teeth grinding. In childhood, teeth grinding is often due to a natural process. With this, children grind their milk teeth flat and thus adapt the chewing surfaces of the teeth in the upper and lower jaw to each other.
This process is not to be regarded as pathological and should occur by itself at the latest with the change of teeth. Nevertheless, teeth grinding should also be observed in children in order to prevent chronic wear and tear of the dental apparatus.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Teeth grinding often takes place at night and initially does not cause any noticeable symptoms in those affected. However, if teeth grinding is not treated, there is a risk of damage to the teeth and pain to those who grind their teeth. Clenching your teeth at night puts strong forces on your jaw. In the long run, there is a risk of abrasion of the teeth and a misalignment of the bite.
The dentist can determine these signs with certainty. Typical complaints due to teeth grinding are headaches as well as pain in the jaw. Ear pain is also not uncommon as a sign of teeth grinding. The temporomandibular joint and the ear are so close together that the nerve tracts in the ear can also be affected.
If the teeth grinding continues over a long period of time, more and more symptoms often develop, which those affected do not associate directly with their teeth. A wrong bite will sooner or later lead to severe discomfort in the neck.
The neck pain, in turn, can also cause headaches of considerable intensity. Back problems and hip pain can also be caused by grinding teeth and a changed bite situation. In order to avoid long-term damage, an orthodontist should be consulted at the first sign of teeth grinding, who can assess the bite and initiate therapeutic measures.
Diagnosis & History
Grinding or clenching your teeth is an unconscious process that the person affected cannot perceive themselves. The life partner often becomes aware of the crunching noises at night. The dentist can recognize teeth grinding based on typical signs of wear and tear on the teeth.
An enlarged or tense and hardened masticatory musculature can also be determined by touch. If teeth grinding is suspected, other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and tinnitus are also clarified in discussions between doctor and patient. Due to the enormous pressure that is applied during teeth grinding, the tooth can be ground down to the dentin if left untreated.
This is much softer than the enamel overlying the dentin and is therefore much more susceptible to tooth decay. Untreated teeth grinding leads to damage to the tooth and denture structure as a whole in the long term. However, if teeth grinding is recognized and treated, the patient does not have to fear any health restrictions.
Constant teeth grinding can cause health consequences and serious complications. First of all, bruxism leads to a reduction in tooth substance, which is usually accompanied by scoring (fine grooves) or cracked teeth (cracks in the hard tooth substance). Such wear of the teeth causes exposed dentin areas and sometimes also nerve pain.
In the area of the gums, teeth grinding can lead to a decline in the tissue and, as a result, to inflammation of the gums. This often develops into periodontitis, which in turn increases the risk of jaw bone loss, loosening of the teeth or tooth loss. Broxism also puts strain on the jaw muscles and the jaw joint.
This can lead to various complications such as chronic back pain or craniomandibular dysfunction. In the long term, bruxism also has physical and psychological effects. The constant rubbing and clenching of the teeth impairs the quality of sleep – exhaustion, tiredness and concentration problems are the result. Chronic headaches, migraines and depression can also develop.
When treating teeth grinding with a grinding splint, the stimulus to grinding can sometimes be intensified, especially if the splints are poorly adjusted. Apart from that, the prescribed sedatives and alternative active ingredients from homeopathy can cause various side effects and interactions.
When should you go to the doctor?
Grinding your teeth indicates an irregularity in the mouth or jaw. A doctor should therefore be consulted as soon as the process is consciously perceived by the person concerned. In a large number of cases, teeth grinding occurs during night sleep. Therefore, it often goes unnoticed for a long time. If the affected person is informed by the partner or family members about the noise development during the night, a doctor’s visit is advisable. In addition, if there are complaints in the mouth area, the irregularities should be clarified. If the person concerned wakes up exhausted in the morning, has a headache or has a sore jaw, the cause needs to be clarified.
A doctor must be consulted so that medical tests can be carried out and a diagnosis can be made. If the affected person notices changes in the teeth, if there is a feeling of pressure inside the mouth or if gums bleed frequently, the observations should be discussed with a doctor. These are the first warning signals of the organism that should be followed up. If irregularities occur when crushing the food in the mouth or if the person concerned suffers from hypersensitivity, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Since teeth grinding often leads to irreversible consequential damage if left untreated, it is advisable to consult a doctor as soon as the first signs appear.
Treatment & Therapy
As a causal treatment, stress reduction is one of the essential therapies for teeth grinding. Autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga can be helpful here. Talking to a psychologist can also help.
In addition, the dentist can prescribe a bite splint. This consists of plastic and is inserted into the oral cavity during sleep. The teeth are separated by a kind of protective layer, which means that despite the nightly grinding, there can be no signs of wear and tear on the teeth. Heat and massages can also relax the muscles.
A successful treatment of teeth grinding can only take place if the patient is aware of this and pays attention to whether and in which situations he is clenching his teeth during the day. The aim is to stop the acute pressing and to avoid the stressful situation in the long term.
If the teeth grinding is due to a misalignment, gymnastic exercises for the jaw area help to bring the jaw back into a correct position. In addition, further treatment by an orthodontist may be advisable. Poorly fitting dentures must always be adjusted by a dentist.
Teeth grinding can be prevented by avoiding stress. The application of various relaxation techniques and becoming aware of one’s own life situation are decisive. Stressful factors in life should be eliminated as far as possible and positive influences should be strengthened. In principle, it is about a balanced relationship between tension and relaxation as well as a conscious handling of stressful situations.
You can do that yourself
The patient can also do something about his annoying teeth grinding. This includes in particular the practice of relaxation methods such as yoga. Corresponding courses can be learned at the adult education center, among others. If the relaxation techniques are practiced over a longer period of time, they make a positive contribution to improving the symptoms. They have the advantage of relieving muscle cramps that are often caused by stress. The relaxation methods can also be carried out in your own four walls. It is advisable to do them before bedtime, which will contribute to a restful night’s sleep.
Special exercises against dental stress are also considered helpful. They stimulate and strengthen the body’s self-healing powers. First the head is loosened and then left hanging for about ten minutes. In this way, the neck can be stretched. The nerves are also relieved, which in turn has a positive effect on the spine. Next step is swinging your head up and down. The back is then pressed firmly in the upper and lower directions. This exercise relieves nerve pressure within the spine.
Massages or physiotherapy exercises are also considered helpful for loosening the jaw muscles. But even changes in lifestyle that are permanent can prevent new complaints from teeth grinding. This includes, for example, avoiding stimulants, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.