The word bruxism is derived from the Greek word brychein which means gnashing of teeth. Bruxism is the medical term that generally describes problematic teeth clenching or grinding.
Bruxism is the involuntary, unconscious, and excessive grinding, tapping, or clenching of teeth. There are several sub categories.
When clenching or grinding occurs during sleep the term nocturnal or sleep bruxism is used. Less frequently when clenching or grinding takes place during the day the term used is diurnal or wakeful bruxism is used.
In all cases of considerable force is applied between the upper and lower teeth. In the case of grinding or tapping this may cause audible sounds that can be a problem for other people eg a partner may be kept awake by the high pitched sound of grinding. In the case of clenching no sound is produced - the jaw often remains in the same position.
Bruxism is a continuum - we all clench or grind our teeth to some extent at some stage or other. It is a question of the degree of clenching or grinding and the impact that this has on the teeth, the jaw and the jaw muscles. It is entirely possible for someone to brux for their whole life without causing damage. The same level of bruxism is another person may cause very debilitating physical damage that may not be reversible.
The possible consequences of problematic bruxism include damage to the teeth due to wearing and or compression, damage to the joint in-between the jaw and the skull and exhaustion of the jaw muscles.
Research: Journal of the California Dental Association
Dentist Henry Clarke, at the Oregon Health Sciences University, used hypnosis to help relax anxious patients. Knowing that stress is believed to be a major cause of tooth grinding, (Bruxism), the researchers tried the technique on eight volunteers who were moderate bruxers. He hypnotized the patients weekly for up to two months, using such phrases as "lips together, teeth apart" and relaxing images such as hot towels on the face. Patients were instructed to play a tape of a session while falling asleep each night. Clarke found that nightly jaw muscle activity had decreased an average of nearly 40%, and facial pain was reported to be much diminished. (Changing States - more rapid results can be obtained when the seeding event is resolved / processed, in combination with self hypnosis).
Research: Understanding change: Five-year follow-up of brief hypnotic treatment of chronic bruxism
LaCrosse, M. (1994) Understanding change: Five-year follow-up of brief hypnotic treatment of chronic bruxism. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Vol 36(4)
Describes the treatment of a 63-yr-old woman with a 60-yr history of nocturnal bruxism. Treatment included assessment, 2 psychotherapy sessions, including a paradoxical behavior prescription to reduce daytime worrying, hypnotic suggestions for control of nocturnal grinding, and reinforcement of the patient's expectations for success. Follow-up assessments at 2, 3, and 5 yrs revealed that she continued to be symptom-free with her self-reports corroborated by her spouse and family dentist.