Have you ever been woken up by the dull crunch of your own gnashing teeth? Did you simply shrug it off only to find that, come morning, you had an awful pain in your jaw? You could be suffering from Bruxism, or teeth grinding.
Bruxism is a form of Occlusal Parafunction, which is a term given to oral behaviours that serve no function. Unlike most other parafunctions (such as nail-biting, thumb sucking, cheek-biting etc.) bruxism normally takes place in your sleep, and is not a learned behaviour.
Is it deadly? Thankfully no. Even so, Bruxism’s side effects can be much more drastic than other parafunctional behaviours.
Why am I grinding my teeth?
Some bruxism activity is rhythmic, quick and repetitive. When you’re chewing, for example, your bite force pulses are very minute, often only accounting for a fraction of a second. Other activities result in longer bite force pulses of 1 to 30 seconds, such as clenching and releasing your jaw.
A major cause for this second type of bruxism is stress. Tension and anxiety can cause people to unwittingly clench and unclench their jaws for several seconds at a time. If you’ve ever caught yourself biting hard in concentration, or tensing up your jaw while you focus on an important task, you’re familiar with how easily we can manipulate our jaw muscles involuntarily.
Work, stress, and active worry aren’t the only causes for bruxism however, since a great deal of tooth- grinding occurs while we sleep. Disturbed sleep habits and a misaligned bite can increase grinding and clenching, inviting bruxism activity even when you’re completely unconscious. For this reason researchers will often classify bruxism as a sleep disorder, as well as a parafunctional habit.
A disturbed sleep habit is not only unhealthy for your teeth. It can have an impact on your health in general. So what’s disturbing your sleep?