Bruxism is the excessive grinding of the teeth and/or excessive clenching of the jaw. Bruxism, often referred to as "gnashing," is the act of involuntary teeth grinding, either while awake or asleep. Bruxism is a common problem: reports of prevalence range from 8–31% in the general population. Bruxism may cause minimal symptoms, and therefore people may not be aware of the condition. Several symptoms are commonly associated with bruxism, including hypersensitive teeth, aching jaw muscles, and headaches. Bruxism results primarily in tooth damage and jaw pain and may be caused by psychological effects of everyday stress.
The muscles of used for chewing are paired on either side and work together to move the mandible, which hinges and slides around its dual articulation with the skull at the temporomandibular joints. During wakefulness the jaw is generally at rest and the teeth are not in contact, except while speaking, swallowing or chewing. It is estimated that the teeth are in contact for less than 20 minutes per day, mostly during chewing and swallowing. Normally during sleep, the voluntary muscles are inactive due to physiologic motor paralysis, and the jaw is usually open.
Some bruxism activity is rhythmic with bite force pulses of tenths of a second (like chewing), and some have longer bite force pulses of 1 to 30 seconds (clenching). Some individuals clench without significant lateral movements. Bruxism can also be regarded as a disorder of repetitive, unconscious contraction of muscles.
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