The tendency to gnash and grind teeth has been recognised since biblical times, and has been historically linked to tense and unhappy circumstances. In 1931 the term 'bruxing' was introduced to designate the gnashing and grinding of the teeth during sleep.
It is estimated that about a third of the adult population suffers from clenching or grinding their teeth. Most often patients are not aware that they are bruxers, since bruxing is performed on a subconscious reflex-controlled level.
It is only when it is brought to their attention by their sleeping partner or their dentist that they recognise the habit. Even children as young as two years have been shown to grind their teeth during sleep.
Diagnosing bruxing is not very easy, and apart from the spouse or roommate hearing audible grinding sounds, it is sometimes only a dentist who can make the diagnosis.
How do I know if I am a bruxer?
Bruxing has been associated with frequent headaches, sore joints of the jaw, sore and stiff jaw muscles, a tired feeling in the jaws in the morning and locking of the jaws. Pain in the neck, throat, shoulders and face are also frequent complaints.
Bruxing also results in various dental problems. These include excessive wear of the teeth resulting in aesthetically unacceptable shortening of the length of the teeth, sharp edges, wearing down of the enamel on top of the teeth, as well as fractured teeth, fillings or crowns.
(Dr Ilona Visser, dentist)