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Definition of Bruxism

Bruxism is a certain type of medical condition which ischaracterized by clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth. This oral parafunctional activity affects a large number of people everywhere around theworld and it actually got its name from the Greek word brygmos which roughlytranslates to gnashing of teeth. Bruxism is mild in most cases, but it issometimes a nocturnal activity which may lead to development of varioushealth issues. For those who do not know, bruxism is also among the most commonsleep disorders known to man.

Causes of Bruxism

Bruxism is nothing more than a habit, contrary to thepopular belief that it is a reflex chewing activity. All different types ofreflex activities occur only as a response to a certain stimulus which does notinvolve any subconscious brain activity, and this is not the case with bruxism.Brain controls the clenching and chewing either by complex conscious orsubconscious processes, and bruxism is one of the subconscious processes which occurduring sleep.

There are numerous different causes and contributing factorswhich may lead to the onset of bruxism and these may include anxiety, digestiveailments, trauma or allergic reactions, among others. The list of contributingfactors includes obsessive compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’sdisease and hypersensitivity of the dopamine receptors in the brain. Use of GABAinducing analogues, amphetamines, drugs and stimulants, highlevels of stress, high levels of anxiety, smoking, high levels of alcohol inthe blood, high levels of caffeine in the blood, malocclusion, disturbed sleeppatterns and numerous different types of sleep disorders.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The most common symptoms of bruxism may or may not includepainful jaw, sore jaw, insomnia, neck pain, gum recession, tinnitus, looseteeth, migraines, headaches, eating disorders, earache, depression, tension,stress and anxiety. Bruxism obviously leads to the development of numerousdifferent types of dental problems as well. These dental problems usuallyinvolve gum recession, tooth loss, occlusal trauma, dental damage, tooth fractures, dental abfractions, abnormal wear patterns of the occlusalsurface and occlusal trauma.

Bruxism in some cases may lead to additional medical complicationssuch as headaches, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, myofascial pain andseverely accelerated abrasion of the teeth. All of this may even lead toarthritis as well. Since bruxism is not the only known cause of teeth wear the condition is sometimes very hard to diagnose. The best way of diagnosing bruxism is by using acertain method called electromyography which measures the electric signals fromthe muscles used for chewing. Another method used in the diagnosis ofbruxism is the so called biofeedback headband. Some cases of bruxism mayrequire the use of both different types of diagnostic methods in order todiagnose the condition properly.

Treatment

Bruxism needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible, and whenthe exact cause is pinpointed early on, the condition can be treated fairlyeasily by using certain conventional types of treatment methods. If thecondition does not get diagnosed early on, it develops into habitual bruxism whichusually requires habit modifications in most cases.

Dental splints and guards are deviceswhich are used mainly due to the fact that they are highly efficient inreducing the abrasion of teeth. Dental guards are usually made of plastic andare designed so that they can be placed on the patient’s lower teeth, upperteeth or both. They are very efficient in preventing the abrasion and reducingthe muscle strain because they make the movements of the jaw much easier. They also come in very handy when it comes torevealing the patterns of bruxism, preventing the teeth from getting damaged,minimizing the changes to the positions of the teeth, and reducing the risk oftemporomandibular joint damage. Dental guards cannot be observed as the curefor the bruxism.

The repositioning splints are very efficient in changing thebite and the occlusion of the patient. Another excellent option for those who suffer from bruxism is anociceptive trigeminal inhibitor dental guard which needs to be snapped ontothe front teeth. Its main purpose is to prevent the overlapping of the upperand lower front teeth and translate the bite force into a forward twisting ofthe lower front teeth. By doing so, the brain gets tricked into thinking thatthe nerve sensations which occur during the aforementioned process areundesirable so it reduces the clenching force. There are also numerousbiofeedback devices available on the market such as biofeedback headbands anddevices which administer mild electric shocks in response to musclecontractions. Some other types of therapies rely on stimulation of thetaste buds. Several other devices on the market are designed to force the userto breathe through the mouth instead of nose. Botox is another populartreatment method for those who suffer from bruxism but it may sometimes involvecertain severe side effects. Dietary supplements such as calcium, magnesium or pantothenic acid may also be helpful to a certain extent.

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