Considering the high prevalence of teeth grinding, why would someone even talk about it, leave alone imagine it to be a health issue? There are so many people who grind their teeth, when angry or frustrated, etc. So, what is so special about ‘bruxism’ – the medical name for teeth grinding? What makes it a medical issue? What could be the real reasons for this to happen, and of course, the most important question: how to stop teeth grinding?
Bruxism essentially involves gnashing one set of teeth against the other, using considerable amount of pressure. In fact, it is almost 14 times higher than the normal pressure used for chewing. Yet people do this activity for no rhyme or reason. A completely involuntary and aimless activity, teeth clenching can happen both during the day or night, when it is rightfully called sleep bruxism.
Bruxism becomes a medical issue when the noise of nighttime teeth clenching is loud enough to wake up the person sharing the same bed. The amount of pressure exerted during teeth gnashing ends up causing painful conditions including irreparable damage to gums and teeth, headaches, painful jaw joints, ear and facial aches, etc.
How do you know that you are suffering from bruxism?
Because teeth clenching is normally a nighttime activity, it gets noticed first by the bed partner. Some of the bruxism symptoms that the patient witnesses include migraine-type headaches, extra teeth sensitivity, damaged teeth enamel, laceration of the gums, facial pain, tenderness around the head and Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain. Bruxism symptoms also include misbalance of the jaws.
Since bruxism is usually fallout of some co-existing illness, bruxism symptoms could be accompanied by various signs that are similar to sleep apnea symptoms including snoring, frequent awakenings, etc.
What could cause teeth grinding?
One of the most common teeth grinding causes is pent up stress, suppressed frustrations, etc. At times, bruxism arising out of such causes may happen on a temporary basis and not need any medical treatment.
But otherwise, some of the common teeth grinding causes that are psychological in nature are: (a) stress and anxiety; (b) some typical characteristics like over-aggressiveness, hyperactivity, competitiveness promote bruxism.
Teeth grinding causes may also be linked to certain co-existing medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, etc.
Is it possible to stop teeth grinding?
The key to stop teeth grinding is first becoming aware of the existence of the problem and then getting to the root to solve it. It is now known that 70% of patients of bruxism are also victims of stress and anxiety. Chances are high that to stop teeth grinding, one needs to aim for stress reduction, as a first step. There is plenty of stress reducing techniques available including yoga, relaxation, meditation, etc that have proved effective over the centuries.
Since 70% of all cases of bruxism are related to anxiety, stress and mental pressure, to stop breathing, one can do several mind-relaxation exercises including yoga, deep breathing, meditation, etc that calm the mind and reduce stress levels.
Drug therapy involves using conventional pain killers and muscle relaxants for reducing pain and discomfort. Over and above pain killers, doctors also prescribe tricylic antidepressants and botulinum injections for the management of jaw pain.