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Bruxism

Bruxism is grinding of the teeth. The verb is "to brux". This is a habit observed in a large number of people occasionally, and in a smaller number, habitually. The mechanism of causation is tension and spasm of the muscles used for mastication.

Often, it occurs during sleep; even a short nap may induce it. In a typical case, the canines and incisors are commonly moved against each other laterally, i.e. a side to side action, which erodes tooth enamel[?], removing the sharp biting surfaces and flattening the edges of the teeth. Sometimes, there is a tendency to grind the molars together, which can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner.

Over time, bruxing shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to pain in the joint of the jaw, the tempero-mandibular joint, or headache. Teeth hollowed by previous decay (caries[?]) may collapse; the pressure exerted by bruxism on the teeth is extraordinarily high.

The cause, or causes, of bruxism remains unclear. Some dentists believe it is due to a lack of symmetry in the teeth; others, that it reflects anxiety, digestive disturbances or a disturbed sleep pattern.

The effects of the condition may be quite advanced before sufferers are aware they brux. Eroded teeth may be brought to the sufferer's attention during a routine dental examination. If enough enamel is eroded, the softer dentine will be exposed, and erosion will accelerate. This opens the possibility of dental decay and tooth fracture, so early intervention by a dentist makes sense.

Treatment of bruxism

Sadly, there is no accepted cure as yet, mainly as we have no accepted model of causation for the condition. Ongoing management of bruxism is based on prevention of the abrasion of tooth surfaces by the wearing of an acrylic dental guard, created to the shape of the individual's upper teeth from a bite mould. This requires trips to the dentist for measuring and fitting. Alongside this full width guard, smaller and alternative shapes can be obtained, some with proprietary names.

If a tense jaw is experienced during wakefulness, some sufferers find it helpful to gently press their jaws open with fingertip pressure, to relax the affected muscles much as one would treat a leg cramp, but in this case, it is important to take care not to overextend the jaw joint.

Though, presently, there is no cure available for bruxers, it may be found beneficial to work at reducing stress and anxiety before bedtime, by a winding-down activity such as massage, meditation or reading, and eating early enough to ensure a fairly empty stomach at bedtime may also help.

Damaged teeth can be repaired by capping or reconstruction. Note that some types of cap are harder than others, and will last longer, but these tend to be more expensive initially. After dental repair, it makes sense to wear a tooth guard to prevent further damage.



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