Except when we eat, our teeth should not be in contact. When we tend to keep our jaws clenched for long periods of time, whether it is day or night, we have a problem with clenching our teeth. If, in addition, the jaw moves back and forth while maintaining a clamping force, it is called a tooth creaking. This form of tightening causes a lot of wear on the teeth. When squeaking occurs at night, the forces can be very high. Teeth grinding can also have harmful effects on gums, chewing muscles and jaw joints.
The characteristic sound produced by teeth grinding comes from a lateral or forward and backward friction movement of the teeth. In this case, i. e. when the lower jaw moves, we speak of dynamic bruxism. A majority of people who have already heard a teeth grinding consider the sound emitted as simply awful, irritating and unforgettable!
People who clench their teeth without making them grind emit little or no sound, because the movement involved in clenching is a vertical pressure exerted on the teeth by the force of the jaws without lateral movement of the mandible; this is called static bruxism. A person can therefore suffer from bruxism without making any noise.
In theory, teeth should never touch each other, except for the 20 minutes combined daily during which a person chews or swallows. However, the situation is very different for part of the population.
A large part of the population will suffer from bruxism at least once in their lives; for some, bruxism will become a chronic disorder. Almost as many children (14%) as adults and the elderly (11%), both women and men, are affected on a regular basis, i.e. several times a week.
Bruxism tends to decrease with age according to studies conducted on this subject, with the maximum number of cases being recorded in individuals aged between 20 and 50 years.
Bruxism is considered by many researchers as a sleeping sickness in its own right. It can potentially cause other disorders, ranging from snoring to sleep apnea (breathing stops during sleep). Some even attribute bruxism to problems of concentration, both for adults and children, and to learning problems in school among young people.
Chronic burners have a disease that tends to get worse over time. Indeed, the more an individual clenches or grinds his teeth, the more his chewing muscles will tend to tighten. An increase in the tightness of these muscles can result in a greater squeeze or creaking, leading the person into a vicious circle from which it is very difficult to escape.
Daytime bruxism versus nighttime bruxism
80% of addicts are active at night (nocturnal bruxism), while the other 20% burn during the day (daytime bruxism). The main difference between the two types of bruxism is the awareness of the gesture.
Daytime bruxomaniacs have some control over the movements of their jaws (voluntary movement). They can therefore more easily get rid of their habit by identifying the cause of their bruxism and trying to release their jaws when they become aware of the action in order to avoid sequelae.
Conversely, nocturnal bruxomaniacs grind or clench their teeth completely involuntarily, often during periods of light sleep, while body movements, especially those of the lower jaw, are more frequent. The pressure exerted on the teeth of nocturnal burners is also higher than that exerted by daytime burners.
Usually, neither the squeaking noise nor the pressure exerted wakes the nocturnal bruxomaniac.
Bruxism in young children
Young children, who still have their primary teeth, are also affected by bruxism. They may grind or clench their teeth during the day; these movements are usually motivated by a desire to discover their new teeth. However, they may also seek relief from tooth growth, which leads them to clench teeth to exert counter-pressure on the gums or erupting teeth. Young children can also grind or clench their teeth unintentionally at night for various causes.
At the evolutionary level, it is now believed that bruxism allows young children to slowly get rid of their primary teeth.
Bruxism usually stops spontaneously in children when their permanent teeth appear in the mouth. On the other hand, parents of a young chronic bruxism sufferer should monitor their sleeping habits, as a bruxism sufferer child is more likely to maintain this habit in adulthood if the cause is not treated at the outset.