Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?

Sometimes, people grind their teeth without causing any symptoms or problems to oral health. However, regular and persistent teeth grinding can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw and it can wear down your teeth. Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws.

What causes bruxism?
Most cases of teeth grinding occur subconsciously during sleep. It is usually associated with contributing factors, such as stress or anxiety. Grinding teeth (Bruxism) also affects people when they are awake, although this is more likely to be clenching the teeth and jaw, rather than grinding. Most people do it subconsciously while they are concentrating.

The following factors may be associated with bruxism (whether by cause or effect) :

  • Disturbed sleep patterns and other sleep disorders (obstructive sleep apnea, hypopnea, snoring, moderate daytime sleepiness
  • Malocclusion, in which the upper and lower teeth occlude in a disharmonic way, e.g., through premature contact of back teeth
  • Relatively high levels of consumption of caffeinated drinks and foods, such as coffee, colas, and chocolate
  • High levels of blood alcohol and Smoking
  • High levels of anxiety, stress, work-related stress, irregular work shifts, stressful profession and ineffective coping strategies
  • Hypersensitivity of the dopamine receptors in the brain
  • Disorders such as Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases
  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder[citation needed]
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction
  • Use of NAC (acetylcysteine) may increase glutamate and dopamine to some extent
Signs and Symptoms :
Nighttime grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ). Most kids who grind, however, do not have TMJ problems unless their grinding and clenching is chronic. 
Patients may present with a variety of symptoms, including :
  • Anxiety, stress, and tension
  • Depression
  • Earache
  • Eating disorders
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Loose teeth
  • Tinnitus
  • Gum recession
  • Neck pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sore or painful jaw
Treatment :
1. Dental guards and splints : A dental guard or splint can reduce tooth abrasion. Dental guards are typically made of plastic and fit over some or all of upper and/or lower teeth. The guard protects the teeth from abrasion and can reduce muscle strain by allowing the upper and lower jaw to move easily with respect to each other.

2. Biofeedback (Behavioural therapies) : The principle behind biofeedback in treating bruxism is to automatically detect bruxing behavior, and provide a conscious or subconscious awareness signal to the user so that the user can decrease that behavior, preferably even while asleep. 

3. Botox : Botulinum toxin (Botox) can lessen bruxism's effects. An extremely dilute form of Botox is injected to weaken (partially paralyze) muscles and has been used extensively in cosmetic procedures to 'relax' the muscles of the face.

4. Repairing damage : Damaged teeth can be repaired by replacing the worn natural crown of the tooth with prosthetic crowns and bridges. To protect the new crowns and dental implants, an occlusal guard should be fabricated to wear during sleep.

5. Other treatments, such as muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene, may also help manage your symptoms. 

6. Making some simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and managing stress may also help in reducing the habit.

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