Bruxism (Clenching of Teeth)

Bruxism (Clenching) is the technical term for grinding of the teeth that soon removes critical portions of healthy enamel from the chewing surfaces of the teeth and may cause facial pain.Clenching is a common variation of bruxism and involves non-purposeful closing of teeth in the chewing position.Only a few of these patients are made aware of and treated for this condition before their dentition has been irreversibly destroyed requiring extensive restorative treatment or tooth extraction. Bruxism is a far more destructive process than caries .People who grind and clench, called bruxers, unintentionally bite down too hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep. In addition to grinding teeth, bruxers also may bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. Normally people having this habit are diagnosed very late because they are themselves not aware of the after effects of this habit. This habit can be treated by a dentist.

Even people with healthy teeth and gums can clench so often and so hard that over time their teeth become sensitive. They can experience jaw pain, tense muscles and headaches along with excessive wear on their teeth. Forceful biting when not eating may cause the jaw to move out of proper balance. It can also cause stress fractures in the teeth.

When a person has bruxism, the tips of the teeth look flat. Teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off, exposing the inside of the tooth which is called dentine. When exposed, dentine may become sensitive. Bruxers may experience pain in their TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) the jaw which may manifest itself as popping and clicking. Women have a higher prevalence of bruxism possibly because they are more likely to experience tissue alterations in the jaw resulting from clenching and grinding. Tongue indentations are another sign of clenching.

Stress and certain personality problems are at the root of bruxism.For as long as humankind has existed, bruxism has affected people with nervous tension. Anger, pain and frustration can trigger bruxing. People who are aggressive, competitive and hurried also may be at a greater risk for bruxism.

 If the dentist or patient notices signs of bruxism, the condition may be observed over several visits to be sure of the problem before recommending and starting therapy. The objective of therapy is to get the bruxer to change behaviour by learning how to rest the tongue, teeth and lips properly. When some people become aware of their problem, simply advising them to rest their tongue upward with teeth apart and lips shut may be enough to change their behaviour and relieve discomfort. However, the dentist can make a plastic mouth appliance, such as a NIGHT-GUARD or occlusal splint, that's worn to absorb the force of biting.It forms a barrier between the top and bottom teeth to stop the grinding of the two arches.

The nightguard will receive the occlusal wear rather than the teeth. Therapy should be started as soon as the condition is diagnosed. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth and helps change the patient's destructive behaviour. Biofeedback is used to treat daytime clenchers by using electronic instruments to measure muscle activity and to teach patients how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too great.    .