Teeth grinding (bruxism): causes, symptoms, consequences, treatment

The nocturnal crunch, during which the jaw hardly comes to rest, has slowly but surely become a kind of widespread disease in recent decades.

What is bruxism?

Anyone who suffers from this so-called bruxism rubs, presses or bites their teeth against each other unconsciously while sleeping – sometimes so tightly that this causes lasting damage to their teeth. The pressure exerted by grinders is often enormous, much greater than when chewing.

Statistically speaking, about one third of adults in this country belong to the group of gnashers at times. Over time, about one eighth of those affected develop a clinical picture that can lead to damage to the masticatory system. Bruxism mainly affects women – according to statistics, about 80 percent of teeth gnashers are female and between the ages of 30 and 45.

Causes of teeth grinding

In the medical sense bruxism has no important function, because it is not chewed or ground. Instead, there are a number of possible physical and mental causes that cause teeth grinding.

In sleep research, on the other hand, there is also talk of movement disorders triggered by certain types of snoring. If the brain’s sleep control changes as a result, this can manifest itself in the unconscious reaction of teeth grinding.

Causes of teeth grinding: stress processing

Crunching is very common among many people because it is a reaction to tension, stress and worries that are expressed in the unconscious state. When anger and anger are repressed and worries make their way through the subconscious, teeth grinding can be a compensation mechanism of the body to express the literal pressure.

Anyone who has the feeling that they literally have to “grit their teeth” all the time, whether in the family, in a relationship or at work, can express their mental stress in a physical reaction like grinding teeth.

Overcoming stress can help

Disappointment, grief and simply any persistent stress can lead to bruxism. If the trigger for the crunch is mental, it is therefore advisable to seek help in coping with the underlying fears or worries.

Sometimes a conversation with your partner or a friend can provide great relief, or it is worthwhile to have an informative talk with a therapist, possibly with a subsequent conversation or behavioural therapy.

Often the head simply needs a break from stressful everyday life, so that the integration of relaxation rituals into everyday life or a relaxing holiday can work wonders.

Causes of teeth grinding: Cranio-mandibular dysfunction (CMD)

Many crunches have a malposition in the lower and upper jaw. Such a so-called cranio-mandibular dysfunction (CMD) can affect the entire musculoskeletal system as well as the spine. CMD primarily manifests itself in pain in the temporomandibular joint as well as strong teeth grinding, especially at night. It is not uncommon for such a malposition to be accompanied by regular headaches.

Causes of bruxism: Poorly fitting dental prosthesis

Bruxism can also be caused by crooked teeth or insufficiently seated dentures. If a filling, crown, bridge or denture does not fit properly, the jaw may move unconsciously at night in response to the unpleasant foreign body.

Causes of bruxism: medicines and drugs

It is also suspected that alcohol, drugs and certain medications can influence the night-time reaction of teeth grinding. Psychotropic drugs and drugs such as ecstasy may play a role in this context.

Diagnosis of teeth grinding

If you visit the dentist with suspicion of bruxism, he will first examine the entire oral cavity and also palpate the masticatory muscles. In some cases, it can be observed that the grinding of the teeth has already ground down the cusps of the teeth and the enamel is cracked.

Many grinders complain of pain in the masticatory muscles, which have increased in size and hardened. The hypersensitivity of the teeth is also a symptom that many gnashers show. The jaw joints are often impaired as a result of teeth grinding.

By palpation, the dentist can determine whether the cheek muscles and jaw joint are affected. In severe cases, the gums and the periodontium have already been damaged at the time of the examination.

Self-test: Do I suffer from teeth grinding?

Especially after a “strenuous” night with strong crunching and pressing, the masticatory muscles can be painful and hardened after waking up. In some patients, this may manifest itself in jaw cracking after opening the mouth.

If you suspect that you grind your teeth at night, feel the muscles from the cheek to the temporomandibular joint once in the morning and feel whether they feel tense or hardened. Also ask your partner if he has heard crunching or grinding noises or if he has observed the typical crunching of the jaws.

In chronic teeth grinding, the jaw joints are often affected by the pressure of strong pressing, sometimes painful. The same can apply to teeth that suffer from grinding in the long run.

Treatment of teeth grinding

If it turns out that you suffer from bruxism, the dentist will recommend a custom-made splint. This splint, also known as the bite splint, is made of hardened plastic and is worn at night. It protects the teeth and jaw from further damage by relieving the musculature and creating a distance between the rows of teeth.

Depending on the intensity of the bruxism, a splint can last between a few months and several years. To clean it from bacteria, keep it clean every morning with warm water, a toothbrush and some toothpaste.

All in all, however, such a splint only alleviates the damage that the teeth would suffer in the long term without this medical help. A splint is not able to eliminate the trigger for teeth grinding, be it mental or physical.

>What you can do against teeth grinding yourself

If you suffer from bruxism, you can deal with the symptom in different ways. However, the first step is to find the individual cause of the crunch.

If the gnashing of teeth is based on repressed fears, worries or grief that unconsciously surface at night, it can help to become aware of inner insecurity and to seek appropriate help: whether in the form of therapeutic measures, pronunciation with a familiar person or a relaxing holiday.

If persistent occupational problems, anger or constant stress at work are the cause of night-time pressing, consider whether a change or other fundamental change is possible to help you in your situation.

Help Against Bruxism: Relaxation Techniques

In the case of physical causes for teeth grinding, it can help to take action against the habit with warmth, relaxing massages and certain gymnastic exercises and to permanently loosen the tense jaw muscles again.

In addition, check the position of your jaws every now and then throughout the day: As a rule, the rows of teeth only come into direct contact when eating and swallowing.

By the way, it is not only worth it for crunchers to find out which relaxation technique gives you balance from the stress of everyday life. Yoga, autogenic training or relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson can help to reduce stress very effectively.

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Christina Cherry
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