Every now and then, it can help to personalize your demons. The chronic discomfort of teeth grinding has an actual name associated with its pain – bruxism. Bruxism is a movement disorder that can occur during the day or night.
As anyone who has ever suffered the somewhat relentless condition can attest, to refer to an annoyance as being “teeth-grinding” would be to do a disservice to a harmful habitual action. The Mayo Clinic acknowledges a number of root causes – not all of them physiological. The habit has a measure of notoriety attached as a common tic displayed by individuals coping with exceptional anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension – pretty much any mood that a strongly clenched jaw would betray.
It may seem a stereotypically angry act – and, by the definition of a stereotype, it is – but it doesn’t always denote a necessarily foul mood. Many exceptionally competitive and hyperactive individuals also grind their teeth. It can also be an unfortunately damaging side-effect of such prescribed psychiatric medications as phenothiazines or several antidepressants and certain intense moments of focus.
Teeth grinding can arise as a symptom of numerous physical ailments of multiple bodily systems. In many young children, teeth grinding accompanies both the chronic pain of an earache, sleep-related breathing disorders, or sleep apnea.
It is a common symptom of such serious nervous system disorders and movement disorders such as:
• Parkinsonian Conditions
• Myotonic Dystrophy
• Muscular Dystrophy
• Tardive Dyskinesia
• Hyperkinesias (Body Tremors, Essential Tremors, Oculogyric Crysis)
• Dystonia (Craniocervical Dystonia, Oromandibular Dystonia, Miege Syndrome)
• Spasmotic Torticollis / Cervical Dystonia
• Hemifacial Spasms
• Huntington Disease
• Tics (Neck Tics, Facial Tics, Eye Tics)
• Tourette Syndrome
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Facial Motor Movement
• Gait disorder
It can present as the body’s involuntary reaction to acid refluxinto the esophagus. Individuals with malocclusion, a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth, grind as a consequence of their irregular jaw structure.
Most bruxism sufferers aren’t necessarily aware of their behavior until someone brings their attention to it – especially sleep-related breathing disorder patients (sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome), the group that suffers the greatest to control the bruxism (teeth grinding).
The consequential damage can be severe and permanent. In addition to contributing to the development of various TMJ syndromes and other myofascial muscle pains, bruxism methodically shortens teeth – especially molars – and can lead to numerous symptoms, not the least of which being severe, chronic headaches:
• Fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth
• Need for eventual bridges, crowns, root canals, implants or partial or complete dentures
• Deformed facial structures (muscle hypertrophy)
• TMJ pain
Bruxism doesn’t discriminate. Though many adults grind their teeth, as many as 15 to 33 per cent of children begin grinding after their first teeth develop and continue to wear them down after their permanent teeth replace them.
The underlying cause of bruxism has to be determined and addressed. If the underlying problem is due to medications the patient is on, then they can be possibly modified by the medical physician.
If the underlying problem is due to a sleep-related breathing disorder (sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome), then the patient requires a sleep study and be managed according to their diagnosed condition.
However habitual or irresistible an oral fixation may be, avoid chewing pencils, pens and other non-food items, but particularly eliminate chewing gum. Though sugarless gum can be great for teeth ordinarily, it makes a habit of clenching the jaw muscles with or without anything to actually chew.
If bruxism is filling your life with persistent discomfort, please, contact us today to learn more about how we can help and schedule an examination.