If you've ever woken up in the morning with the lower half of your face aching it's very possible that you were grinding your teeth or clenching your jaws during the night. If this happens you often experience tension in your masticatory muscles or an aching in your jaw.
Teeth-grinding, also known as bruxism, is when someone unconsciously clenches or grinds their teeth together. This is regularly experienced by one in three people in Switzerland, in their sleep or even sometimes during the day. The process can really take its toll, often causing irreparable damage to the teeth such as worn-down surfaces or cracks in the enamel. It sometimes also results in tension in the face and neck, which in turn often causes headache. Grinding can even lead to permanent ear noise, inflammation of the mandibular joint or changes in the tooth position. On the other hand many people don't suffer any complaints despite grinding their teeth.
According to experts bruxism isn't a disorder, but represents normal activity of the masticatory muscles. However, it does occur more frequently under psychological stress, so it makes sense to find out exactly what's causing the stress or inner unrest. Breathing exercises, massage, autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation have all proven to be good ways of helping the body wind down. Some dentists even recommend psychotherapy for patients whose teeth-grinding persists for a long time.
If you're repeatedly confronted with stressful situations and clench your teeth, you can also have a special bite splint made. It's designed to protect the teeth and is often recommended by dentists, especially when they discover worn teeth in a check-up. As you get older it's normal for the teeth to be worn down to a certain extent, and it doesn't always have to do with bruxism. For many children, teeth-grinding is even a normal phase they go through.
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