The grinding and gnashing of teeth has been recorded as far back as 3500 BC. The Sumerians thought grinding your teeth was a sign of poor health or even impending death. One remedy included putting a human skull on a chair for three days, adding sacrifices to it each morning and night. It is estimated that 30% of the population habitually grind their teeth. There are two types of grinding. Clenching which is forcefully pressing the upper and lower teeth together and bruxing, which is sliding the lower teeth across the upper teeth repeatedly. These habits can be conscious or unconscious. It is usually done during sleeping and can sometimes be heard by others. Signs of clenching and bruxing are sore jaw muscles or jaw joints, headaches, migraines, loose teeth, wear patterns and frequent tooth fractures. Wear patterns can usually be detected by a dentist. Everyone occasionally clenches when they are angry or lifting a heavy object. However, habitual clenching and bruxing can have serious consequences. Some clinicians believe that clenching and bruxing are caused by an abnormal bite, this occurs when teeth hit unevenly or interfere during various jaw movements. The theory is that the body is trying to grind away portions of tooth that interfere. In prehistoric times the coarse diet wore away these areas but our modern diet fails to provide this service. Other theories are that clenching and bruxing are caused by stress, hormonal changes, or vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Lastly, some dental clinicians believe that it is caused by airway restriction. The body attempts to increase air intake through the processes of bruxing and snoring. There are many environmental factors that cause airway restriction such as swollen tonsils or adenoids, nasal obstruction and allergies.
The average biting force of a human is about 200 to 300 pounds per square inch (psi). It takes 28psi to chew a carrot. Most people bite for about 30 minutes a day with a biting force of 30 psi. Clenchers and bruxers have overdeveloped jaw muscles and can generate 500 to 900 psi over a period of hours. These kinds of forces can cause tooth wear, tooth cracking, filling fracture, loose teeth, earaches, headaches and migraines.
The best treatment is using preventive measures before any damage can occur. Treatment for bruxism can involve biteguards, braces, bite adjustments, stress reduction, medication, and removal of tonsils and adenoids. Any damage to the teeth needs to be restored as well.