Tooth grinding or professionally called "bruxism" is an unhealthy habit as it can reduce otherwise healthly tooth substance rapidly. The causes for this are diverse and not yet fully explored. Most people grind their teeth at night, but some people do it unconsciously during the day. Teeth grinding is very common in children and infants. The most common cause is believed to be negative stress.
What happens when you grind your teeth?
Affected people usually unconsciously rub their teeth against each other, causing long-term damage to the dental substance. They often do it in their sleep, when the consciousness is completely switched off or with strong mental and emotional tension.
Teeth grinding is classified as a parafunction, since the triggered activity of the masticatory apparatus fulfills no real purpose. Nevertheless, the teeth are pressed together with great pressure, as the masticatory muscles work with even stronger biting forces than with normal chewing.
When the upper and lower jaws are maladjusted (a so called cranio-mandubular dysfunction, CMD) it can affect the harmony of the entire musculoskeletal system and lead to health problems like headache and tinnitus. Usually a CMD is usually noticeable by pain in the temporomandibular joint - and by clearly audible teeth grinding. But often tooth grinding does not always - especially in children - equal a CMD.
Tooth grinding is a relatively common phenomenon. For many adults, negative stress or unresolved mental problems are considered to trigger grinding. But also orthopedic problems of the temporomandibular joints or misaligned teeth or badly fitting dentures are viable causes. Likewise, alcohol or certain drugs are suspected.
Sometimes nocturnal teeth grinding is also a bad habit. The teeth grinding in children's sleep is often associated with improperly positioned deciduous teeth and disappears with the regrowth of permanent teeth.
Teeth grinding - consequences
Even when on slightly pressed together, the teeth are over-stressed and tooth substance is lost. The temporomandibular joints may also start to be painfull as a result of teeth grinding. In the worst casde when the joint discs slip, those affected can not even open their mouths properly anymore or close them only in pain. In addition, strong muscular tension in the neck and head area can develop.
What can you do to stop grinding or at least reduce the impact?
The best option is to reduce stress. However, that is sometimes easier said than done. The easiest thing to do is to have a nightguard produced. Additionally, a massage therapy, a heat treatment and even autogenic training, yoga and thai chi can help to reduce nocturnal teeth grinding and the symptoms of bruxism. If tooth grinding has been reducing the tooth substance significantly you can re-establish the anatomy of the teeth with composite fillings (this is a more temporary option) or full ceramic partial crowns (so called table tops).