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The brain controls teeth grinding

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Posted June 21, 2019

A new study confirms that teeth grinding – also known as bruxism – is not due to an abnormal bite, as has otherwise been thought thus far. It is actually the brain which makes the jaw muscles work, and for this reason it could be that stretching and relaxation exercises are better than mouth guards or filing down the teeth, says the professor behind the study.

Healthy smile. Image credit: Kjrestin_Michaela via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Healthy smile. Image credit: Kjrestin_Michaela | Free image via Pixabay

If you intensively practice golf, your brain will get used to you hitting the ball more precisely, and you will therefore become a better and better golfer. A new study shows that it is similarly possible to train the brain to grind teeth.

And even though it is unlikely anyone would actively choose to begin grinding their teeth, the result is nonetheless significant for many people, says the researcher behind the result, Professor Peter Svensson from the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health, Aarhus University.

“Now that we can prove that bruxism is interconnected with the central nervous system, which is to say the brain, we’re also closer to understanding why as many as twenty per cent of all Danes grind or clench their teeth. This means we’re also closer to finding a form of treatment for what is often a painful disorder,” he says with reference to the new study, which has just been published in the Journal of Prosthodontic Research.

“Because if we can get the brain to grind teeth, then we can also get it to stop again,” he adds.

Risk of improper treatment                              

Today, a mouth guard or splint is often used as treatment, with tooth filing or straightening also being used in rare cases. However, according to Peter Svensson, a mouth guard does not solve the problem, and filing down teeth is an obsolete form of treatment for teeth grinding.

As with other examples of overload or overuse, in the majority of cases doing ordinary stretching exercises or muscle relaxation exercises can be sufficient.

“At one time, we thought that bruxism was caused by an abnormal bite, and therefore the teeth were straightened and filed in order to achieve a more even bite. But you don’t actually have to do anything with the bite,” says the professor, who is now working to find a way to stop the brain from grinding teeth.

The research results – more information

  •   The study is a clinical experimental intervention study on people who both do and do not suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding). These people have trained a tooth clenching exercise and have had their brain’s control of the jaw muscles measured before and after.
  •   The most important external partner is the Nihon Dental University, Japan
  •   The Danish Dental Association has financed the study.

Source: Aarhus University

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