The alarm clock rings and you slowly lift your body from the
bed. Your eyes are not fully open yet and there's a pain in your
jaw that is so rigid you can feel the pressure right up to your
"They are indications of teeth grinding at night - something you
must tell your dentist about," says Professor Stephan Doering,
director of the department of psychosomatic medicine in dentistry
at the University Clinic of Munster, western Germany.
The medical term used to describe the unconscious act of teeth
grinding and clenching of the jaws is bruxism.
Only a small proportion of the people who grind their teeth at
night are aware it's happening. "It's usually the partner in bed
who complains first," says Doering.
|During daylight hours people with bruxism
often clench their teeth when under stress. Quanjing
During daylight hours, it's common for people with bruxism to
clench their teeth when under stress: "While driving a car, taking
an exam or when concentrating on a task."
There are several causes of bruxism. In many cases psychosomatic
factors play a role, as well as poor stress-management
"It's the human version of snarling in animals," says Ingrid
Peroz, who lectures in jaw-bone issues at Berlin's Charite
hospital. "Unfortunately, people are not allowed to scream when
they're in a stressful situation or are feeling aggressive."
Most people with bruxism are between 20 and 40 years old - the
phase in their lives with the most stress. Other causes of bruxism
are a misalignment of the jaws, a bad filling, bridge or crown. The
rough surfaces are simply ground away.
There could also be an orthopaedic cause of teeth grinding such
as bad body posture or a disorder of the spinal column that can
have an indirect influence on the jaw bone and surrounding
"When there is more than one cause of bruxism, it usually leads
to pain," says Oliver Ahlers, director of the Center for
Temperomanduibular Joint Disorder in Hamburg, who points out that
anyone who often wakes up with a sore jaw or a headache should be
mindful of the possible cause.
"A change in the shape of the teeth or a smoothly worn cusp are
indications of bruxism at night," Peroz says.
Doering recommends consulting a dentist if you think you grind
your teeth or clench your jaw bone at night.
A dentist may not always easily recognize the symptoms of
bruxism just by a physical examination. Once bruxism has been
identified as the cause of pain, treatment usually follows in the
form of a mouth guard.
"The guard is made from transparent plastic. It does not stop
grinding but protects the teeth from abrasion," Peroz says.
The only way to combat the psychosomatic causes is to try and
relax and deal with stress in a different manner. Methods of
dealing with stress include progressive muscle relaxation,
autogenic training or yoga.
"Apart from when swallowing, teeth should never lay directly on
top of each other," says Peroz. The jaw bones should be relaxed,
with the teeth apart and not touching each other.
(DPA via China Daily January 30, 2008)