Bruxism is when you clench or grind your teeth. Some bruxism activity is rhythmic with bite force pulses of tenths of a second (chewing), and some have longer bite force pulses of 1 to 30 seconds (clenching). It is an oral activity that occurs in most humans at some time in their lives.
In most people, bruxism is mild enough not to be a health problem. While bruxism may occur during the day it is bruxism during sleep that causes the majority of health issues. Bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders.
Bruxism is a habit rather than a reflex chewing activity. Reflex activities happen in response to a stimulus, without involvement of subconscious brain activity. Chewing and clenching are complex neuromuscular activities that can be controlled either by subconscious processes or by conscious processes within the brain. During sleep, (and for some during waking hours while conscious attention is distracted) subconscious processes can run unchecked, allowing bruxism to occur.
Bruxism can result in occlusal trauma, (trauma to the bite surfaces of your teeth)abnormal wear patterns of the occlusal surface, abfractions and fractures in the teeth. Over time, dental damage increases. Bruxism is the leading cause of occlusal trauma and a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession.
The cause of bruxism is not completely agreed upon, but daily stress may be the trigger in many people. Some people probably clench their teeth and never feel symptoms. Whether or not bruxism causes pain and other problems may be a complicated mix of factors: stress, how long and tightly you clench and grind, whether your teeth are misaligned, posture, your ability to relax, diet, and sleeping habits.
Stay tuned to learn about different treatments of bruxism!