Teeth and psyche - when the soul grinds

Booming headaches and back tensions immediately after waking up? Or pressure in the ears and sore muscles in the jaw area? And in the morning you feel broken and whacked? All these signs may indicate a common cause: nightly teeth grinding, medically called "bruxism".

Dentists say that at least one in two adults grinds and presses their teeth over the course of their lives. Women more frequent than men, an increased incidence can be found between 30 and 45 years of age.

It is therefore a widespread evil. And it can have bad consequences. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of crunches cause permanent damage to the masticatory apparatus as a result of the bad nocturnal habit. Cause we can bite real hard if we have to. Forces of up to 100 kilograms per square centimeter act on teeth and jaw joints. This corresponds to the force with which two cement bags press on a molar tooth. However, our masticatory apparatus is not designed for such a load. The chewing muscles and the jaw joint may be overstrained. As a result, irreparable damage to the entire masticatory system can occur. For example, the teeth are rubbed or loosened by constant pressing and grinding. The temporomandibular joint is also subject to excessive wear and tear. And in the chewing muscles, muscle knots can form. All this can lead to great pain.

In the past, it was thought that a malpositioning of the dentition would cause the affected person to grind their teeth, because it is said that they would unconsciously fight against it all the time. Studies ten years ago, however, have shown that orthodontic regulation of such malpositions does not always eliminate crunching. And vice versa, the grinding also occurs with symmetrically fitting upper and lower teeth. Therefore, today's doctrine is that it is primarily the psyche that decides whether or not to crunch, and only secondarily does the chewing system have an influence.

The main causes are stress factors and an emotional imbalance. The vernacular knows this:"Bite your teeth together", or "you'll have to bite your way through it", if someone finds himself in the middle of a difficult task. If you take occupational stress, unresolved tensions and problems with you to bed, the psyche continues to work on it at night. Some of them may have trouble falling asleep, others may experience it in the nocturnal gnashing of their teeth.

The organism is in a state of tension. Breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tone, blood sugar levels and adrenaline release are all increased under stress. This has to be discharged in the form of physical activity, otherwise these reactions will damage the body. Our ancestors still had this possibility. Today, one of the most civilized rules of conduct is that you never lose your temper. One eats stress into oneself instead of "snatching one's teeth". Measurements with electromyogram (EMG) show that those under permanent stress react with an increase in muscle activity. In stress-healthy people, on the other hand, the chewing muscles are relaxed at night. Particularly frequent factors that trigger permanent stress reactions are work-related difficulties, bullying, family problems, caring for sick relatives and financial problems.

Some character traits promote teeth grinding. This includes overconfidence, sacrifice and depressive-masochistic traits. These characteristics have in common that a deep conflict can hardly be brought to the outside world. And actually, one doesn't really want to deal with the conflict, but rather to suppress it. But the psyche is not so easy to outwit. It then reveals the repressed conflict about the gnashing of teeth.

So what can you do if you get your teeth aching in the morning or your partner tells you that you've been grinding again?

First, go to the dentist. Based on the signs of abrasion on his teeth, he can see whether you belong to the crunches. He'll probably adapt a occlusal splint for you to wear at night. The natural distance between the upper jaw and lower teeth is maintained. The pressure is also skillfully redirected so that it is distributed to all teeth and not only to the "grinding teeth".

Second: Typical crunches should also learn to keep teeth and jaws in the right position during the day. This is the resting hover, the teeth of the upper and lower jaw do not touch each other, the chewing muscles are largely relaxed.

And thirdly, you should regard the crunch as a warning signal that something is fermenting inside. Talk to friends or family about your problems and try to find a solution together. That's probably easier said than done. Sometimes this can only be done with therapeutic help. Relaxation exercises such as autogenic training or tai chi help to reduce internal stress.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung e.V. (LZG) Germany