Why do people grind their teeth and how can it be stopped?
Teeth grinding is a very complex problem. One must eliminate a systemic reason for the grinding, discomfort, pain, psychological tension, neurological disorder, etc. If one rules out systemic pain, etc. then one must evaluate the way the teeth come together. Are there any occlusal disharmonies? If the teeth do not come together, clash with one another, or interfere with coming together--grinding can occur.
It is very common for children to grind their teeth. While eruption of teeth occurs--grinding accompanies these activities--grinding helps get the teeth to line up and interdigitate appropriately. Grinding is common in neurologically affected patients (brain damaged, etc.). It could be a stress release mechanism. It sometimes is a reflection of mandiblar movements and manifests a loud sound.
If the teeth are wearing away (gum recession occurs, facial muscle fatigue limits eating and causes pain, or TMJ joint pain and clicking occurs), treatment must be initiated. This can be via mouthguards, medications, orthodontics, etc. The mouthguard sometimes eliminates the grinding, especially if it is a residual habit that was started at an earlier age. Some of the "fun" is taken away via the mouthguard and the child stops grinding. Medications do help. If clenching and grinding are associated together, muscle relaxation medicines or mental-stress eliminating drugs also can help.
I do not think that one can be taught not to grind. It is either a habit or it is elicited from other sources. Facial massage and nurturing may be used as a part of a behavior management program. All of these approaches are valid, what will work best is always unknown until tried.
RM/ TK 7-13-10
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