Episode 25 | The Art of Teeth Grinding


We talk about:

  • The two forms of bruxism
  • Symptoms of bruxism
  • WHY toddlers grind
  • WHAT orthodontic treatment can have to do with grinding
  • WHY dental work can cause grinding
  • WHAT other causes can cause you grind or clench your teeth
  • HOW to stop grinding and clenching

Teeth grinding, or bruxism as the dentist calls it, is a condition that is affecting a growing number of people. There are many reasons why people start grinding their teeth, some of them quite surprising.

Today we discuss some facts about teeth grinding that might make your jaw drop.

If you regularly wake up in the morning with sore jaw muscles or a headache that fades away as the day goes on, you may be grinding your teeth at night.

And if you don’t have a partner whose sleep you disturb, you might not realise what is causing your pain.

Actual grinding rather than clenching is most common at night and is usually more severe than during the day.

There are two forms of bruxism

The first is when you really grind your teeth together. That is like chewing without food in your mouth. It causes the teeth to rub against each other without the buffer of food in between.

The second form of bruxism is jaw clenching. Clenching tends to be more common during the day and many people do this when they are angry, anxious or are very focused on a task.

You’d be surprised about the amount of people grind their teeth. Statistics say it is about 10% of the population. From my experience in practice I would say it is more likely to be 20 -30% if not more. And the numbers increase especially in times of extraordinary stress.

The chewing system

For a better understanding, before we talk about teeth grinding, I would like to first explain the part of our body that makes teeth grinding possible and the parts that make up the chewing system.

The chewing system consists of different parts. These include:

  • the teeth,
  • the muscles,
  • the tongue
  • the jawbones,
  • the gums,
  • the right and left temporomandibular joints,           
  • the ligaments and tendons

These parts of our chewing system not only help us grind and clench, but they also support us in their interaction so that we can breathe, chew and swallow, and that our posture is stable.

For the chewing system as a whole functions optimally, the individual parts of the system must of course also function properly.

Symptoms of a dysfunction

Let’s take a look at which part of the chewing system can show what kind of symptoms.

Teeth can be worn, have cracks or excessive marks, are mobile, are tilted, infected or sensitive. Teeth or restorations can break. The tooth nerve can become irritated by too much pressure

Muscles can be stiff, tense, sore, painful, hypertrophic or spasm leading to headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder tension or pain. Headaches are mainly in the sides of the head – the temporal muscles and or the forehead whereby

The jawbone can have areas of reduced bone density or bone loss.

The gum might be inflamed or infected, receding or have pockets.

The temporomandibular joint can be clicking or painful in the area of the joints or in the ears called tinnitus. Mouth opening can be limited or it can be difficult to chew.

And the ligaments and tendons also can show signs of pain or restricted mobility.

Are your teeth currently touching? Even as you listen to this episode?

If so, that’s an indication that you’re doing some damage. Because your teeth are not supposed to touch at all unless you’re eating and chewing your food.

Instead, your lower jaw should be relaxed, with a bit of space between the teeth when the lips are closed. So, be mindful and try to stop yourself from grinding when you catch yourself doing it.

Why toddlers grind?

Teeth grinding is by no means a privilege for us adults. Anyone who has children probably knows this from their own experience. When there is a noise from the children’s room at night and the offspring rub their teeth against each other with such intensity that we think that if this continues like this, the teeth will fall out or at least soon break off.

As long as the relationship between the upper and lower jaw is close to what we assume an ideal bite at this young age, it can be understood that the nocturnal teeth grinding of the young offspring is a matter of fine-tuning the opposing teeth and is therefore not a cause for concern.

But how often does this ideal state still really exist today?

Given how many children are undergoing orthodontic treatment, one has to conclude that most of them are far from this ideal condition.

The miracle of a healthy, un-grinded tooth

If we look at a healthy tooth that is free of caries and fillings, with its cusps, slopes and peaks, its valleys and small grooves, it appears like a work of art.

This miracle of nature is flattened like a bulldozer by grinding and clenching. Here can come to light how suppressed emotions can destroy the hardest substance in our body, the tooth enamel.

Teeth, succumbing to the grinding and clenching show revealing marks. You can see glassy surfaces where teeth rub against each other, polishing their surfaces to a high gloss.

When the dentist also comes into play

Often, we dentists have a hand in it when it comes to teeth grinding.

That is when we incorporate fillings, crowns, bridges or prostheses that are not ideally adapted to the patient’s bite.

The patient experiences this as a bit “high” or prominent, just not quite right and simply different than before. Sometimes this is also noticed when moving the lower jaw sideways or forwards.

Instead of relying on the encouraging words “you will get used to it” or “, it would be helpful to examine the cause of this feeling.

If not dealt with appropriately, the chewing system tries to eliminate this incorrect contact, which can lead to grinding or and clenching.

If the teeth are not in harmony with one another, muscular tension in the jaw area can also occur. This tension or the lack of balance can then continue in the neck.

Sometimes even up to the hips, so that here a misalignment of the pelvis, a leg length difference arises, which was caused solely by a wrong bite.

It then requires a practitioner who thinks outside the box, who can connect the dots, who is familiar with these relationships and who can diagnose this incorrect posture and explain how to eliminate the cause.

The temporomandibular joint can also suffer from such dis-harmony and react with pain, clicking or friction noises.

The consequences of this imbalance between the teeth can range from headaches to nerve pain to diarrhoea. In the worst case, a tooth that has to put up with this constant impact by this imbalance can become very sensitive or even die.

In many cases people have chewed their teeth quite far, sometimes even to the gums, and yet have no subjective symptoms. While others react very sensitive to the slightest abrasion and their teeth react very sensitive to hot and or cold at an early stage

Each of us has an individual level of compensatory ability. One barrel is only half full and can therefore still absorb a lot of stress, while the other barrel is close to overflowing and so even the slightest cause can spill it over and cause symptoms.

Tooth extraction can also trigger teeth grinding because it can alter your bite

Orthodontic treatment causes grinding and clenching?

Conventional orthodontics, with its bands, brackets and fixed appliances often misses or ignores the underlying problem.

Today orthodontic treatment for children is the rule rather than the and this should give us all food for thought.

As I discussed in episode 11, the main reasons for orthodontic treatment are mostly the fatal consequences of our so-called civilization diet and the lack of long enough breastfeeding.

As a result, the jawbone arches, which are normally round in shape, taper to a point and the often associated mouth breathing then ensures that the teeth no longer fit together perfectly and therefore have to be adjusted by orthodontic treatment.

Let’s briefly touch on the findings of Dr Weston A. Price. The tribes he visited who have not yet come into contact with our industrial food and who are predominantly free of dental caries and gum disease and above all are free from crowded teeth and jaw deformities.

But as soon as they come into contact with the Western so-called civilisation diet, this changes drastically.

Psycho-emotional reasons that lead to clenching and grinding

Findings show that up to 70% of bruxism cases can be pinpointed as stress-related

During sleep, our brain tries to process impressions of the day, stress, worries and fears and to find solutions to problems. During sleep, these problems move “from the brain to the jaw”, so to speak, and are literally “chewed through” again.

The causes for this are of the most diverse nature and range from pressure to perform at work, partnership conflicts, bullying, financial problems, old beliefs and unresolved problems to suppressed feelings and trauma and many other reasons.

Sleep disorders can cause teeth grinding

Sleep disorders such as snoring, talking in your sleep and sleep apnoea can contribute to teeth grinding.

All of these conditions disturb sleep to a point where the sleeper is no longer in a deep sleep and bruxism is more likely to happen.

The more often the sleeper comes up into the lighter layers of sleep, the higher the chances of teeth grinding.

Lifestyle choices can cause teeth grinding

Smoking, caffeine or alcohol in high amounts as well as recreational drugs can prompt teeth grinding.

Also, the over-use of drugs related to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety can trigger teeth grinding.

There is also research that parasites and heavy metal intoxication can cause teeth grinding.

How do you stop grinding and clenching

As Dr. Dietrich Volkmer writes so beautifully in his book “The Art of Teeth grinding” that the art of teeth grinding is not to do it.

With so many possible causes potentially triggering grinding and clenching a proper examination is essential, followed by the removal of any promoting factors especially dental related.

In the case of grinding, the dentist recommends a grinding splint. This is to ensure that the grinding no longer happens on your own teeth but now on the splint and thus the teeth are spared further wear.

Of course, this only works as long as the splint is worn. Anyone who grinds during the day has little support from a grinding splint that is only worn at night.

The grinding splint has other benefits too. Because the teeth are no longer in direct contact with one another, the jaw muscles can also relax a little, which means that they are supplied with more blood and oxygen.

The temporomandibular joint is also relieved, since the lower jaw part of the joint is no longer pressed so tightly onto the upper jaw part.

Ultimately, the grinding splint is supposed to change the behaviour of the jaw muscles and break the vicious circle of tense muscles and teeth grinding.

Homeopathic remedies can be helpful in those with a more psychological background of teeth grinding to release or reduce tension and cramping. Here the experienced homeopath is called for, who finds the ideal remedy for his patient.

The classic remedy for cramps is Cuprum metallicum. Cina, the worm seed, has proven itself in nervous and hypersensitive children who grind and clench at night.

Another remedy is Zincum metallicum to calm the nerves.

Relaxation exercises, meditation and autogenic training can have a supportive effect.

I have heard of Botox being used in severe cases to partially and temporarily relax the jaw muscles.

Of course reducing the stress level in your life could well be the cure.

Prepare for bedtime

I recommend to have a proper bedtime ritual to avoid any source of sensory stimulation before you go to bed. Some of the main things that easily simulate our brains are the screens on electronic devices, so it’s best to stop watching televisions, using computers, and phones one to two hours before bed.

Taking a warm shower would also allow the body to reduce tension: the after-shower transition from high to lower temperature would trigger in the body tiredness and lethargy, due to the decrease in metabolic activity.  A gentle massage of the chewing muscles with magnesium oil or a magnesium supplement may help relaxing.

Practicing deep breathing to relax body and mind and listen to soothing music. The sound of rain sets an environment of calmness and you can feel tightness and tension met away

Hypnosis or Time Line Therapy can find and resolve the underlying causes.

Light Kinesiology with Biophoton mirrors, which we use in our practice has proven to be very beneficial in treating teeth grinding.

We had a three-year old girl in the practice the other day who was grinding her teeth very loudly every single night since many months.

We used Light Kinesiology therapy and not only did she stop grinding her teeth already the next night, also her behaviour changed to a far more balanced, lively and chatty young person. The whole family was amazed.

That’s it for today. This is Elmar’s Tooth Talk, The missing link to total health.

Until next time, Bye for now.

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