Bruxism is defined as a parafunctional activity related to grinding of teeth, usually coupled with clenching of the jaw. This is a condition often considered problematic but not serious, on the same level as eating sugary foods. Unfortunately, this is a misconception.
Aside from enamel becoming worn down and thinned, harmful enough in and of itself, grinding your teeth and constantly clenching your jaw can damage the joint in your jaw, eventually leading to TMJ syndrome (acute or chronic pain in the temporomandibular joint). If the enamel in your tooth is worn down then the dentine and eventually the pulp of your tooth may be exposed, which can result in root canals, necrotic pulpitis, or necrosis of the tooth pulp. If you have crowns, their life expectancy can be cut by more than half due to tooth grinding, and crowns may damage living teeth more than other living teeth can. This condition can also lead to recessed gums and tooth loss, head and neck pains, as well as severe jaw pain. You can also suffer inner ear damage, or develop tinnitus. If severe enough, this ailment can cause eating disorders and loss of appetite, as it may become painful to eat and speak.
So, a little worse than sugar. But don’t start grinding your teeth over it. The good news is bruxism is not a reflex, it’s a habit. And habits can be changed.
If you realize you’re grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, stop and relax your jaw. Pay attention for a while, stopping the motion the moment it starts, try to train yourself out of the habit. If sheer force of willpower alone isn’t enough, there are night guards available from many websites. There is even an organization devoted entirely to bruxism and helping you get rid of it!
People coping with stress or who have been exposed to stressful situations may develop this problem; bruxism can occur in conjunction with sleep disorders as well. The best way to stop this type of manifestation is to cure the underlying problem.