However, the sound of teeth grinding together is not the only characteristic of this involuntary and unconscious movement that occurs during sleep. Clenching and chattering teeth are part of the problem and can also manifest themselves outside of nighttime rest. Bruxism affects men and women equally, is less common among the elderly, and can be observed as early as childhood.

It is considered the third most common sleep disorder, after somniloquy (talking while sleeping) and snoring.

When it occurs at night, it is called sleep bruxism; when it happens during the day, it is classified as awake bruxism. It is estimated that most individuals will exhibit this type of behavior at some point in their lives, but only 5% will develop this condition. So far, there is no cure for bruxism, but experts guarantee that the sooner the diagnosis is made, the greater the chances of controlling it and preventing its complications.

Bruxism is manifested by a parafunctional (having no function) and repetitive muscular activity of the jaw, characterised by clenching, grinding, or clicking the teeth.

Bruxism can be primary; it is idiopathic bruxism, meaning there is no apparent cause for its appearance, or secondary; it results from other diseases such as cerebral palsy, coma, and use of certain medications, or drugs.

To date, the causes of bruxism have not been fully understood. Despite this, it is known that it may be related to factors such as stress (mainly emotional), heredity (children of parents with bruxism may exhibit the same behavior in 21% to 50% of cases), use of certain medications or substances (dopamine agonists and antagonists, antidepressants, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines), diet, and sleep hygiene. In addition to these factors, the literature indicates possible associations with Parkinson's disease, oral mandibular dystonia, Down syndrome, and atypical facial pain.

The most common manifestation of bruxism is teeth grinding, which is often noticed by a sleeping partner. However, some people may clench their teeth or move their jaw without realising it. Other possible signs or symptoms include temporomandibular pain, muscle pain (masticatory or cervical muscles), headaches upon waking in the morning, tooth hypersensitivity, excessive tooth mobility, drowsiness and tiredness resulting from poor sleep quality, masseter muscle hypertrophy, reduced saliva flow, and difficulty opening the mouth.

The goals of treatment are to eliminate risk factors and prevent the situation from worsening: use of stabilising plates, behavioral changes, and sleep hygiene instructions. The main complication of untreated bruxism is temporomandibular disorder, which represents 70% of cases of this condition, mainly among women. Treatment can involve specific physiotherapy exercises.

For children, parents and caregivers are advised to pay attention to the pressure their children exert with their jaws. If they are constantly clenching their teeth during the day and complaining of headaches or tension in the neck area, this is usually the beginning of the clinical picture.

For more information please contact Grupo HPA Saude on (+351) 282 420 400.