“Bruxism” sounds like a pretty confusing word, but it’s much more simple than you probably realized.
Quite simply, bruxism is just the fancy word for “teeth grinding,” which is the practice of clenching one’s jaw and grinding the teeth back and forth. Usually, people tend to grind their teeth subconsciously during the day or while they’re asleep — and in fact, teeth grinding is considered a sleep disorder just like sleep apnea or sleep walking.
Fun fact: the term “bruxism” comes from the ancient Greek verb “brychein,” which means “to grind or gnash the molar teeth.” (Although it’s more likely that the Greeks intended this word to describe an intentional act of grinding one’s teeth, nevertheless, the notion of teeth grinding has been around for a while!)
Although there are a variety of causes, bruxism is very often linked with high levels of stress. Other mental health problems, such as depressions and eating disorders, are often linked with teeth grinding as well.
People suffering from other sleep disorders are more likely to grind their teeth at night (even when they aren’t stressed out), but it’s common for people with excellent dental health to suddenly develop bruxism without realizing it — and consequently, they start to develop some serious oral health problems without knowing why.
It seems like a simple habit, but teeth grinding can cause many painful problems and can be very hard to correct, largely because many people don’t even realize that they grind their teeth (or simply can’t make themselves stop grinding their teeth, since they’re asleep when it happens). First off, bruxism changes the teeth aesthetically by shortening the teeth. Sometimes this isn’t noticeable, but after years and years of grinding one’s teeth, it can become very obvious to others.
Teeth grinding also affects the functionality of teeth because the constant grinding ends up dulling the teeth (especially the back molars). Tooth enamel can also be worn down very quickly from teeth grinding, allowing
And thirdly, bruxism causes physical pain in many areas surrounding the jaw. Not only could it cause increased tooth sensitivity, but it can cause muscular pain starting in the jaw and leading down to the shoulders; it can cause earaches; it can cause migraines that last for hours.
There are plenty of treatment options available — many dentists give their patients plastic night guards if the grinding seems to occur mostly at night; if the grinding seems to be a result of persistent anxiety (and if other mental health issues are present), reducing anxiety through psychotherapy may consequently lead to a reduction of bruxism.
All in all, bruxism is a serious problem when left untreated — but with an estimated 40 million American adults suffering from this habit, the treatment options are generally very simple, very affordable, and have minimal side effects.
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