Around one in ten people suffer from bruxism, the medical term for regularly grinding and clenching your teeth during sleep. Many will do it at some point in their lives, with the largest group of sufferers in the 25-44 age groups. Dr. Maria Luong shared, “Bruxism can cause damaged or loose teeth, headaches, earache, jaw soreness, and sleep disorder. There are ways to minimize the damage from bruxism, but the most helpful solution is to address the causes.”
Many people who grind their teeth during sleep are not aware they’re doing it until their partner hears the grinding noises or a dentist detects signs of damage. If you frequently wake up with head or jaw pain, particularly with pain that radiates into your ears or the side of your face, it may mean you’ve been grinding your teeth during the night. If you often find that you clench your teeth during the day, then it’s more likely that you will be doing the same in your sleep. Discuss this with your dentist and ask to check for any signs of damage.
Bruxism often appears in children when they lose their baby teeth, and their permanent teeth start to come through. In this case, it seems to be associated with a change in the way their mouth feels. Some adults can begin to grind their teeth after having a procedure such as wisdom teeth removal. If this happens to you, it will probably resolve itself once you get used to the new shape of your mouth. Also, there may be a problem if you have had reconstructive dental work such as a bridge when bruxism can cause further damage or undo the work that’s been done. If you’re worried about this, check with your dentist.
Lifestyle factors also play a part in grinding habits. Bruxism is associated with restless sleep; it may cause insomnia because of headaches or jaw pain. It’s much less likely to happen during the times you’re in a deep sleep, so anything that disturbs your rest such as alcohol, caffeine or some drugs can also contribute to bruxism. The same is true if you have poor sleep habits. For instance, if you sleep somewhere noisy, brightly lit or if you nap at odd times rather than at a regular bedtime, this will cause you not to have a full night sleep.
There’s a clear link between anxiety and stress to cause bruxism, though not everyone who grinds their teeth is anxious. However, there is some research to suggest that grinding during sleep has a similar function to shouting or crying when awake because it releases tension and helps reduce levels of stress hormone. If you suffer from anxiety, then physical exercise and a healthy diet, together with relaxation in the evening and good sleep, will not only address your stress and anxiety but also help reduce bruxism. If your doctor prescribes medication for anxiety or depression, and you already suffer from bruxism, be sure to ask about side effects. Some conventional medicines can cause teeth grinding, and you should ask about alternatives before taking something that could make the problem worse.
Furthermore, you may want to consider for a night guard. A night guard is made of acrylic or silicon; it’s similar to the ones worn by sports players but is less bulky. You can purchase an over-the-counter night guard from the store, but it’s only temporary and better to have one custom made for you by your dentist. The guard won’t usually stop you from grinding, but can prevent damages to your teeth. A guard will usually last from six months to a year depending on the severity of your bruxism.
“There isn’t a specific treatment for bruxism. The best you can do is to identify the causes and remove them, for instance, by avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks in the evening, or using a relaxation technique at bedtime. A mouth guard will prevent damage, so if you regularly grind your teeth in your sleep, you should certainly talk to your dentist and explore whether a night guard would be right for you,” said Dr. Maria Luong.
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