Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a fairly common occurrence that results when people clench their teeth and gnash them together in a grinding motion. Many people do this during the day, either subconsciously or as a habit. Sleep bruxism, however, occurs when people grind their teeth at night. It is just as common, though it has the potential to become more problematic.
While grinding your teeth on occasion is not a cause for concern, the repeated or habitual grinding of your teeth can lead to a variety of complications. When people grind their teeth at night, they do so in their sleep, and are not aware of it. Prolonged, unconscious teeth grinding is where issues often arise.
Symptoms and Effects of Teeth Grinding
How do you know if grinding your teeth is an issue if you do it during your sleep? You may be unaware that you’re doing it, but if it happens on a regular basis, you’ll start to notice certain symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
● A dull, constant headache originating in the temples
● Teeth that are suddenly more sensitive to heat, cold, or sweetness.
● Soreness on your tongue or the inside of your cheeks, as people who grind their teeth often bite themselves.
● Tired or tight jaw muscles.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your dentist to determine whether or not you grind your teeth. Please keep in mind that many of these symptoms might be indicative of other conditions, which is why it’s important to confirm or rule out teeth grinding as the cause. During your regular dental checkups, your dentist will typically check for signs that you grind your teeth.
Grinding your teeth weakens your enamel. It can flatten or wear down your teeth, which causes issues with your bite, and if left untreated, you can potentially loosen or fracture a tooth. Lockjaw and other temporomandibular joint dysfunctions (TMD, or disorders of your jaw muscles) can result from chronic, repeated teeth grinding.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Doctors don’t have a full understanding of all the causes for grinding your teeth. Stress, anxiety, or even pure force of habit are some common causes. Teeth grinding is very common in childhood, and it can also be caused by sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea. If your dentist believes your teeth grinding is caused by a sleeping disorder, or another psychological condition, he or she may refer you to a sleep specialist to determine the underlying causes that must be addressed before the teeth grinding can be alleviated. People with overbites or an abnormal alignment of their upper and lower teeth may also experience bruxism.
How to Prevent Teeth Grinding
There are different methods to keep yourself from grinding your teeth at night, and you and your dentist will determine the technique that is right for you. Here are five ways you can stop grinding your teeth.
1. Wear a mouthguard
Mouthguards are the easiest and most typical measures taken against teeth grinding. Your dentist will fit you with a custom plastic mouthguard that you wear every night to sleep. While you’ll probably still move your mouth during the night, the guard acts as a buffer by preventing your teeth from grinding against each other. The soft plastic keeps your teeth safe and prevents further weakening of the enamel.
2. Dental correction
In cases where your teeth grinding is caused by a dental problem, the proper procedure to correct the issue might be the right course of action. If you grind your teeth because of a dental misalignment, braces or Invisalign might gradually help you stop by improving the issue. If you have damages to your teeth that cause irregularities in the chewing surfaces, crowns could alleviate your teeth grinding.
3. Stress management
For many people, teeth grinding is an instinctual response to stress or anxiety. Oftentimes, if somebody is stressed at work, the subconscious anticipation of the next day’s probable stress can cause them to grind their teeth during their sleep the night before. While your dentist cannot recommend the method of stress management best suited for you, if your teeth grinding is determined to be a result of stress, seek out healthy forms of relieving stress that might help you sleep easier and grind your teeth less.
4. Avoid stimulating substances
Certain substances such as caffeinated beverages, or even alcohol, when consumed before bed can increase the frequency of teeth grinding.
5. Consult with a sleep specialist
If it is determined that you grind your teeth as a symptom of a sleeping disorder, you may need to consult with a sleep specialist to determine the proper treatment for the disorder. By addressing your sleeping issue at its source, the symptoms of the disorder, including your teeth grinding, should gradually be minimized.
Do you think you grind your teeth at night? If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, and have not been able to determine another probable cause, it’s possible that you do. Ask your dentist to examine you for signs that you grind your teeth before your symptoms get worth, and explore which preventative measures are right for you.