Clenching, or bruxism, is generally accepted by the medical and dental community as a disorder, much as any other disease process. Current research and further evaluation of the disorder is now taking a different look on the process.
The Historic View of Bruxism
Bruxism, as already mentioned, has been seen as a disorder itself, or part of another disease process. It has been long agreed upon that bruxism is caused due to processes that can be musculoskeletal or neurologic in nature. Sometimes it was considered to be both acting together.
These processes were considered to be correlated to more complex issues. These issues included idiopathic, or of no known cause, muscular contraction and response to environmental factors, such as stress.
The New Thinking on Bruxism
Current thinking on bruxism is that it is still a neurologic process; however, it is one that the patient trains their self into. To put this more simply, a patient slowly trains their muscles to clench and grind their teeth in response to factors such as stress. It is not a process that develops on its own, but rather one that a patient slowly becomes accustomed.
If this is truly the basis for the disorder, this means that it may be able to be reversed. If a person has trained their body to clench and grind in response to outside stimuli, they can be untrained to do the same.
How To Reverse Habitual Bruxism
Bad habits are hard to break. This can be true of any bad habit, including clenching and grinding. The first step in breaking a habit is recognition of the habit. This does not mean going to one’s dentist and they tell you that you grind your teeth, but rather identifying the habit at the time of its action.
This can be accomplished through a process called biofeedback modulation. There are different products on the market that can accomplish this. It can be particularly difficult considering the majority of patients with this disorder clench and grind in their sleep.
In conclusion, bruxism is a multifaceted disorder. The exact pathology, or reasoning behind the clenching, needs to first be determined by a trained professional. Once the pathology is determined, the appropriate methods can be taken to both alleviate the harm being caused, and the root of the disorder.
Raphael KG, Santiago V, Lobbezoo F.
J Oral Rehabil. 2016 Oct;43(10):791-8.