Occasional teeth grinding is normal and may not be harmful. However, when grinding teeth in sleep becomes a chronic condition, it can lead to damage to the teeth, jaw, and other problems.
Sleep bruxism, or grinding teeth in sleep, is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. This is because when someone starts grinding their teeth in their sleep, the brain is triggered to activate the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight or flight responses. This is unnatural and causes a disturbed state of sleep.
Other symptoms of teeth grinding in sleep include headaches, earaches, difficulty or discomfort while chewing, cracked or chipped tooth enamel, discomfort in the jaw, face neck or shoulders, difficulty hearing or ringing in the ears, popping or clicking in the jaw, and a stiff or stuck jaw.
Causes of Sleep Bruxism
There has yet to be a specific, designated cause, or set of causes, assigned to sleep bruxism. However, there are several known factors which directly contribute to the condition. It is almost always linked with stress and anxiety. If you have an existing sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnoea, you are more likely to grind your teeth in your sleep.
Certain medications, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) produce teeth grinding as a side effect. Certain lifestyle factors, such as drinking, smoking cigarettes, taking recreational drugs and an excess amount of caffeine can all lead to teeth grinding. Dental issues such as crooked teeth or an abnormal bite can contribute to bruxism as well.
There are certain factors which may put you at a higher risk for teeth grinding. Some of these include:
- Stress – this includes anxiety, anger, and frustration
- Age – surprisingly enough, children are more likely to experience bruxism, and will usually outgrow the condition
- Personality type – high-strung, hyperactive, or combative personality types are more likely to experience teeth grinding
- Medications and substances – certain mental health medications such as antidepressants may cause teeth grinding, along with smoking tobacco and recreational drugs
- Genetics – Teeth grinding tends to run in families
- Other medical conditions – Parkinson’s, dementia, epilepsy, ADHD, sleep apnea, GERD, and others
Effects of Untreated Sleep Bruxism
Over time, the pressure exerted on the teeth during sleep can cause significant damage to the structure and integrity of the teeth. Cracks and chips may lead to infection of the pulp and eventual root canals.
In extreme sleep bruxism cases, teeth are worn down almost to the gumline.
This results in the need for extensive restorative work or even full dental implants or dentures. Learn more here.
TMJ, a dysfunction in the movement of the connecting joints of the jaw, is also a result of sleep bruxism.
In severe cases of TMJ, the jaw can pop out, get stuck, cause severe discomfort, and need surgical intervention.
Treatment of sleep bruxism greatly depends on the cause. At Melbourne Dental Sleep Clinic, our focus is finding out the root cause of your teeth grinding and forming a treatment plan around it. Our staff of professionals can discuss the options with you based upon the severity and underlying conditions.
It is possible that we may recommend more than one treatment method. We collect information about your family history, medical history, and your current and past lifestyle factors. We discuss both physical and psychological aspects and options for treatment.
Physical Aspects and Options for Bruxism Treatment
- Restorative dental treatments such as crowns, veneers, or dental implants
- Short-term medication or supplements, such as muscle relaxers or magnesium
- Treatment for medical conditions linked to teeth grinding, such as snoring and sleep apnoea
- Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) – a custom-made mouthpiece used to treat sleep-related breathing disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea. It is designed to open the airway by moving the lower jaw forward.
Psychological Aspects and Options for Bruxism Treatment
- Therapy or psychiatric counsel for emotional stress management
- Making changes in lifestyle that may lead to better sleeping habits, such as eliminating caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours, staying off the phone or tablet before bed, eliminating or minimising recreational drug use, or taking a warm bath before bed
- Muscle relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercise may not only decrease tension in the jaw from teeth grinding, but may also provide stress relief and a better night of sleep
At Melbourne Dental Sleep Clinic, our goal is to not only help you improve your dental health but your all-around quality of life. Our sleep dentist works closely with a team of doctors, specialists, and nutritionists to take a more well-rounded holistic approach to sleep-related disorders than just from the angle of dental health. This means that rather than just treating symptoms, we work together with you as the patient to get to the cause of your teeth grinding.
We have three locations serving the Melbourne area for your convenience. You can reach our Footscray location on (03) 9068 5357, our Armadale location on (03) 9068 5355, or our Niddrie location on (03) 9068 5316. We look forward to hearing from you.