Bruxism is excessive grinding of the teeth and/or excessive clenching of the jaw. It is not an activity related to normal function such as eating or talking. Bruxism is a common problem, some reports range from 8 – 31% of the general population.
High levels of bruxism may cause minimal symptoms, and therefore patients may not be aware of the condition. Some symptoms are commonly associated with bruxism, which include very sensitive teeth, aching jaw muscles and headaches. Bruxism may cause tooth wear and may even cause teeth to break and dental crowns and fillings to be repeatedly lost or damaged.
Bruxism can occur during sleep and during wakefulness but the damage to the teeth is similar in both types. The symptoms of sleep bruxism are usually worst upon waking and improve during the course of the day, and the symptoms of awake bruxism may not be present at all upon waking, and then worsen over the day. The causes of bruxism are not completely understood, but probably involve a number of factors.
Awake bruxism is thought to have different causes to sleep bruxism, and is more common in females whereas males and females are affected in equal proportions by sleep bruxism. Treatment involves the use of dental guards and occlusal splints, with either upper or lower teeth coverage. Occlusal splints are of benefit in reducing the tooth wear that accompanies bruxism.
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