Grinding your teeth — a taboo topic for over 8 million Germans
“Gritt your teeth and push through!” Many of us grew up with this advice. To what extent our parents treated a fundamental problem in a counterproductive manner has not yet been clarified in science. Despite dentists suggesting otherwise, research into the cause of teeth grinding or bruxism isn’t much further along than it was 100 years ago. Of course, treatment methods and technologies have evolved immensely, but what exactly causes teeth grinding remains a mystery. However, at least every tenth citizen in Germany suffers from teeth grinding.
Taboo topics without research funds
According to the ICD-10, teeth grinding is a somatoform disorder — but until 1991, homosexuality was also an illness in the ICD-10. This academic stigmatization makes ubiquitous phenomena a taboo subject* on which hardly any research funds are spent. Dr. Matthias Lange therefore recommends declaring bruxism in the specialist literature no longer as a “disorder” but as “behavior”. At the very least, the subject of teeth grinding will gain broader social acceptance, so that it can be discussed openly.
In the specialist article on bruxism by Dr. Michael Lange (basis of this post) it becomes clear that teeth grinding is primarily due to our technological advances and all its consequences.
Money machines bite splints and CMD treatments
TMD treatments are a thriving business. Hundreds of thousands of bite splints are prescribed/sold annually. Teeth grinding is traded in medicine as a gateway drug to chronically painful CMD. However, only 50% of bruxism patients have characteristics of this chronically painful CMD. Well, statistics — a flexible term.
Incidentally, CMD means “Craniomandibular Dysfunction”. After all, even the layman understands that something “doesn’t work properly”. And pain isn’t good either. So anything that helps is good, right? But does CMD treatment really help?
Dr. medical dent. André von Peschke sums it up as follows: “The fact that the patient pays, often for nothing, is also the daily reality of many ‘CMD patients’!”
What is certain is that long-term teeth grinding can cause jaw pain and ruin teeth. The clenching of the teeth traumatizes the masticatory muscles and causes chronic tension there. This, in turn, leads to even more teeth grinding. A typical vicious circle, the development of which usually remains undetected for years, until the dentist points it out and prescribes CMD treatment.
Has teeth grinding always been a problem?
Before the Agricultural Revolution, there were probably far fewer grinders than today. In the days of hunters and gatherers, humans spent about 40% of their day chewing their mostly hunted and often uncooked food. Today it is only about 5%. And that 5% is usually soft, pre-packaged food. While our subtle stress level is at an all-time high due to media omnipresence and pressure to perform. A toxic combination that makes a dysfunction of our jaw muscles indispensable.
From pacifier to bruxism
Oral fixation is a recognized act of stress management. Even in the womb, embryos don’t do much more than suck their thumbs. Toddlers love their thumb and use it as a super tool to appease themselves. Next comes the pacifier. But at some point life gets serious and the pacifier has to go. And then? Fingernails, pens, chewing gum, toys. The urge to chew outlives the pacifier. At the latest as an adult, oral stress management is then shifted into destructive habits — above all into teeth grinding or clenching.
Our chewing apparatus has a biting force of approx. 0.4kN. That corresponds to the weight of two beer crates. At night the jaw is left to its own devices and the pain threshold is higher than during the day. As a result, the crunch party really takes place at night. The biting force can increase here by a factor of 10.
Although teeth grinding is at its peak when you are asleep, you are not at the mercy of it. Just as you can get out of the habit of sleeping in the wrong position or snoring, you can change the behavior of the jaw. However, it requires the development of a sensitive jaw consciousness.
Immediate action “Mental Unload”
In addition to our work, (social) media robs us of all attention. We are constantly challenged. Mental load and burnout are delayed. So reduce your consumption of toxic digital noise by at least 50% and use this new free time for me-time.
Meditate, practice breathing exercises, listen to classical music, go for a walk — or try Niksen (yes, doing nothing like a pro). And in all these “activities” you watch your jaw. In what situations is it tense? In social interactions, with certain thoughts or specific activities? What stresses you out in these situations? Find out and look for the causes of your “gritting your teeth and getting through” behavior.
Perhaps a sense of inferiority in conversations with strangers causes jaw clenching. If so, reverse your behavior by opening your mouth to a consistent, natural smile in all conversations. This not only relaxes your jaw, but also the conversation as a whole — unless it’s an argument.
Above all, use the Xision® jaw stretcher (100% Made In Germany, 100% ethical production) to bring your jaw into complete relaxation during your me-times (also works while working at the desk, btw) and to perceive it more strongly. Determine the duration of use depending on your well-being. The longer you use it, the more strange muscle relaxation you will notice in the throat and neck area.
After 30 days of daily use at the latest, you will have developed a very sensitive awareness of your jaw and all surrounding muscles and you will recognize earlier when you are destructively pressing again. You also take this early warning system with you into the night. As if your child is calling you, wake up when your jaw kicks back into high gear. Well you’re on the right track and in a few months you’ll be getting through the night with a clear jaw**.
The jaw tone test
Spend the next night with earplugs. Put them in your ears and lie sideways on your pillow in complete silence of your outside world. Listen very carefully. You probably hear a buzzing in your ear. This is the muscle tone (state of tension) of your jaw muscles. This hum has to stop. Find the point where it stops. How does this point of absolute inner stillness feel? Is it strange? Unpleasant? That's okay. Here you can see how much your chewing apparatus is drilled for tension. So much so that the relaxation is uncomfortable. Repeat the tonus test every night to check your progress.
The more you work on your jaw awareness during the day, the easier it will be to go to sleep without a hum. Feel free to keep me updated on your progress. I wish you all the best on your way to a life without grinding your teeth.
I am currently developing a device for effective utilization of the jaw. This will be the ideal counterpart to the jaw stretcher and will enormously shorten the transformation to the new chewing apparatus.