Teeth Grinding

Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is clenching or grinding your teeth, often without being aware that you are doing it. Teeth grinding is caused by the activation of reflex chewing activity; it is not a learned habit. In the United States, bruxism affects an estimated 30 to 40 million children and adults.

Some people grind their teeth only during sleep. This condition is called “nocturnal bruxism” or “sleep-related bruxism.” This happens because during sleep, the reflex part of chewing is still active while the higher control is inactive, resulting in teeth grinding. Teeth Grinding often occurs during sleep and can even occur during short naps. In fact, bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders: 30 to 40 million Americans grind their teeth during sleep. Teeth grinding can even be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner!

Others grind their teeth during the daytime as well, most often during situations that make them feel tense or anxious. In most people, teeth grinding is mild enough not to be a health problem; however, some people suffer from significant teeth grinding that can become symptomatic.


What Causes Teeth Grinding?

Bruxism can have a variety of psychological and physical causes. In many cases, it has been linked to stress, but it can also simply be the body’s reaction to the teeth being aligned wrong or a poor bite.


What Can Occur With Severe Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding can result in abnormal wear patterns of the colossal surface, infractions and fractures in the teeth. People with severe bruxism can also fracture dental fillings or cause other types of tooth damage. These types of damage are categorized as a sign of colossal trauma.

Over time, dental damage will usually occur. Teeth grinding is the leading cause of colossal trauma and a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession.

Some individuals will clench the jaw without significant lateral movements, but in a typical case, the canines and incisors of the opposing arches are moved against each other laterally (i.e. with a side-to-side action by the lateral pterygoid muscles that lie medial to the temporomandibular joints bilaterally). This movement abrades tooth structure, and can lead to the wearing down of the incisor edges of the teeth. People with grinding problems may also grind their posterior teeth, which will wear down the cusps of the colossal surface.

Eventually, teeth grinding shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to myofascial muscle pain and headaches. In severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints.


Mouth Guard Treatment For Teeth Grinding:

Ongoing management of teeth grinding is based on minimizing the abrasion of tooth surfaces by the wearing of an acrylic dental guard or splint, designed to the shape of an individual’s upper or lower teeth from a bite mold. Mouth guards are obtained through visits to a dentist for measuring, fitting, and ongoing supervision.


There are four possible goals when treating teeth grinding with a dental guard or splint:

  • Constraint of the grinding pattern such that serious damage to the temporomandibular joints is prevented
  • Stabilization of the occlusion by minimizing the gradual changes to the positions of the teeth that typically occur with grinding
  • Prevention of tooth damage
  • The enabling of a grinding practitioner to judge — in broad terms — the extent and patterns of grinding, through examination of the physical indentations on the surface of the splint. A dental guard is typically worn on a long-term basis during every night’s sleep.

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