The word bruxism is derived from the Greek and means gnashing of the teeth. Sleep bruxism means grinding of teeth during sleep.
Stress causes, or at least triggers, most cases. Why some people get bruxism and others do not is unknown. Many people clench their teeth but do not experience the symptoms of bruxism. Amphetamine use also causes bruxism.
Sometimes the gnashing is so loud that it wakes up the sleeping partner though generally such a situation occurs only once in a while. Bruxism does not include only grinding of teeth but also clenching of jaws during sleep.
Symptoms include jaw pain, headache, earache, and temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
There´s no known method of curing bruxism. Accessories can reduce the impact of the gnashing. The most common procedure is to wear an acrylic based dental guard. Some doctors also suggest that a combination of vitamin supplements reduce the severity of bruxism. But there is no clinical evidence available to prove this contention conclusively.
Devices have also appeared on the market which claim to reduce the abrasive effect of bruxism to a large extent. The most innovative among them first hit the market in 2005. It has certain sensors which closely monitor the activities of the muscles which actually cause the jaws to clench. As soon as it senses that the jaws are about to come too close to each other, it partially closes the nasal aperture and forces the sleeping person to breathe through the mouth. The jaws automatically move away from each other and the teeth never grind.
This device doesn´t disturb the sleep of the affected person unlike
other devices which wake them up the moment the jaws come too close
to each other. Some doctors dismiss these devices as fancy fads and
are very skeptical about their efficiency.
The incidence of bruxism declines with age. Children have it the most, and senior citizens the least. About 30% of kids around age 5 have bruxism. This is when children still have baby teeth. Incidence among adults in estimated at 5-10%, but exact numbers are unknown. It is thought that most bruxers are unaware of their condition.