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Teeth Grinding: What Is Bruxism And Why Is It Harmful To Health?

24 January 2017, 9:30 am EST By Arrianne Del Rosario Tech Times
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Teeth grinding may seem normal, but it's not.

Frequent teeth grinding, especially at night, is a medical condition that, if left untreated, may actually cause you your precious pearly white teeth, your sleep, and the quality of your life.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the medical terminology used to refer to the grinding of the teeth or the clenching of the jaw. However, experts say these two are different from each other.

According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, grinding or bruxism involves moving the jaw with the teeth together, which usually results in the visible flattening of the teeth.

Clenching, on the other hand, is simply holding the teeth together and tightening the jaw muscles. Although clenching rarely results in obvious damages to the teeth, people who suffer from it may experience muscular soreness, pain, and injury to the jaw joint.

What Causes Bruxism?

The exact reason why bruxism occurs has yet to be discovered.

Recent research also consistently found that bruxism is seen more frequently in people diagnosed with existing sleep disorders, such as snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Some people notice that they are teeth grinding a lot during times of stress, anxiety, concentration, or even anger.

Lifestyle factors, such as drinking and smoking, and the use of certain drugs - including recreational drugs, anti-psychotic medicines, or antidepressants, also known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors - have been linked to secondary bruxism.

Effects Of Bruxism

Aside from causing visibly worn teeth - which may involve cracked teeth, abnormally short teeth, extra-sensitive teeth, fractured teeth or fillings - bruxism also comes with many painful short-term and long-term side effects.

These include inflamed and receding gums, headaches, facial pain, ear aches, pain and stiffness around the jaw and surrounding muscles or temporomandibular joint, difficulty opening the mouth, pain down the shoulders, and sleep problems.

How To Treat Bruxism

Bruxism can be treated, or at least managed, through a number of ways. But for the Bruxism Association, the only clinically proven treatments for bruxism include mandibular advancement devices, occlusal splints, and behavioral approaches, such as hypnosis.

Occlusal spints are small plastic mouth guards worn during bedtime to protect the teeth from injuries, inhibit jaw movement, and reduce the noise from teeth grinding. An occlusal splint is sometimes called occlusal bite guard, bruxism appliance, bite plate, or night guard.

Typically used to stop snoring and sleep apnea, mandibular advancement devices can also address sleep bruxism. These devices are specifically designed to hold the lower jaw and tongue forward in order to make room for breathing, preventing the person from snoring.

Hypnosis, psychoanalysis, meditation, progressive relaxation, sleep hygiene, and habit reversal and habit retention are some popular behavioral approaches available for the treatment of bruxism.

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