Why grinding your teeth might not always be a bad thing
According to the Council of Dentists in Spain, bruxism is the dental diagnosis that has increased the most since the pandemic, almost quadrupling. In fact, its incidence among the population has gone from 6% to 23%.
We all know what this behaviour basically entails – clenching or grinding one’s teeth. In recent years, the concept has changed and is now classified into two distinct forms: sleep bruxism; and, awake bruxism.
In the latter case, the person may be aware of their behaviour and, thus be able to stop it.
In some clinical settings, both types can be considered a risk factor or sign of underlying disease, such as headaches or temporomandibular disorders. And there is always the possibility that these two varieties of bruxism will have negative consequences: they can cause tooth wear and fractures, as well as muscle or joint pain.
Current research implies another important modification to the concept of bruxism: it is no longer considered a pathology but a mere motor activity. That is to say, it does not have to be harmful in and of itself.
A 2020 study concluded that waking bruxism could be a stress release mechanism. And secondly, the variety that occurs while we sleep seems to be related to gastric reflux and obstructive sleep apnoea. Some authors hypothesise that it could play a protective role against the effects of both disorders.
With that in mind, perhaps one of the most effective treatments is biofeedback. This consists of having patients learn to identify and reduce muscle tension by adopting a jaw resting position with the use of an electromyograph, a device that measures the electrical activity of the muscles.
Many people are unaware of the fact that for the jaw to be relaxed and at rest, there should be no contact between the teeth. The easiest way to detect if we are clenching our teeth is to put ‘post-it’ notes in visible places to act as a reminder. And, since stress is chronically present in our lives, we should regularly undertake relaxation techniques and techniques to control the bracing of jaw muscles.