Bruxism is an oral para-functional activity observed in most people to some degree, includes clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. Bruxism affects a great portion of adults and estimates span from 50 to 95%. It is caused by the activation of reflex chewing activity; it is not a learned habit. Chewing is a complex neuromuscular activity that is controlled by reflex nerve pathways with higher control by the brain. These reflexes are triggered when the teeth touch. During sleep, the reflex part is active, while the brain control is inactive. The result is an abnormal chewing action known as bruxism. Some dentists believe it is due to a lack of symmetry in the teeth; others, that it reflects anxiety, digestive problems or a disturbed sleep pattern. Over time, bruxing shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to pain in the joint of the jaw, the temporomandibular joint, or headaches. When bruxism causes the TMJ to become symptomatic and alter its normal function the condition is termed TMJ Dysfunction.
How is bruxism treated?
Unfortunately, there is no accepted cure for bruxism as yet. Ongoing management of bruxism is based on prevention of the abrasion of tooth surfaces by the wearing of an acrylic dental guard or night guard. These guards are very specifically adjusted to fit the patient's bite. Their primary function is to disassociate the trigger points on the biting surfaces of the teeth which cause the reflex chewing activity at night. In turn they protect the teeth from further wear and protect the muscles and joint from further strain and deterioration, decreasing the painful symptoms.