Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding or tooth clenching. Occasional bruxism is nothing to be alarmed about, but the condition becomes problematic when the clenching and grinding occurs regularly. Grinding or clenching of the teeth often occurs during sleep. In most cases, it is caused by missing or crooked teeth or an abnormal bite. Anxiety and stress may also be directly or indirectly associated with teeth grinding. And, more nad more evidence now shows that it is a sleep disorder, similar to sleep walking or sleep talking.
Chronic teeth grinding has many negative implications to your teeth. With your teeth being constantly subjected to the force of your bite, grinding can wear them down and cause them to become more prone to fracturing. It can also loosen teeth, which eventually contributes to tooth loss. Myofascial pain is also a common consequence of grinding your teeth, this can lead to persistent headaches and TMJ dysfunction. Clenching and grinding your teeth causes abrasion of the enamel which expose the inner dentin of the tooth, making them more susceptible to sensitivity, decay and fracture. Some people also experience gum recession, along with other complications associated with chronic bruxism like arthritis of the temporomandibular joints.
Tooth grinding often occurs during sleep, which is why most people remain unaware of the habit until it is pointed out to them by a loved one or until they experience telltale signs like sensitive teeth, a sore jaw, and/or dull, but constant headaches. Having your teeth and jaw examined by a dentist can help you determine whether tooth grinding is having an impact on your teeth and/or your TMJ.
The effects of tooth grinding can be mitigated by wearing a night guard during sleep. Dental guards or splints significantly reduce tooth abrasion and reduce muscle strain by offsetting the forces of clenching and grinding, which also helps reduce damage to the TMJ. Other ways to prevent or stop grinding include relieving stress, taking muscle relaxants, and cutting back on stimulants like caffeine, chocolates, and colas.