Bruxism is the medical term used when you grind and clench your teeth. You might clench your jaw during stressful situations in the day, or you might grind your teeth at night when you’re asleep. Teeth grinding bruxism is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder, even though it is possible for it to occur during waking hours. If you have a problem with teeth grinding it’s best to address it in the early stages before it can do damage to your teeth. Understanding why it happens can be very helpful when adopting a treatment strategy. Let’s consider what causes bruxism and how you might deal with it.
Sleep Bruxism Vs Awake Bruxism
If you grind your teeth when you’re awake, your medical practitioner is likely to call it a habit rather than a sleep disorder. Most people who have awake bruxism tend to hold a lot of tension in the jaws, and will grind their teeth together when they are stressed or anxious.
What Are The Signs Of Awake Bruxism?
You might notice
- Regular dull headaches
- Stiffness in the jaw
- Aching jaw joints or a tired feeling in the jaw
Generally, when you have awake bruxism, it’s unlikely to cause wear and tear to your teeth. However, people who develop awake bruxism are more likely to have sleep bruxism.
Sleep bruxism is considered to be a sleep disorder and you might be the last person to know that you are teeth grinding at night.
What Are The Signs Of Sleep Bruxism?
You might notice
- Pain and stiffness in your jaw
- Grinding or popping noises when you open your jaw
- Sensitive or damaged teeth
- Loose or broken fillings
It’s also quite common to experience ear pain, because of the close proximity of the ear to your temporomandibular joint.
What Causes Bruxism: Causes Of Primary Bruxism
Primary bruxism develops by itself and doesn’t have one cause. There are a few different factors that can contribute to its development:
Studies have found that the primary cause of bruxism in adults is stress. This is true of both sleep and awake bruxism in adults.
New Teeth Are Growing
Teeth grinding occurs in 40% of children, as their teeth are emerging from the gums. Fortunately, because the teeth and jaws are still in the growth phase, it doesn’t appear to do lasting damage in children.
People who smoke, and drink alcohol and caffeine beverages are statistically more likely to experience teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding bruxism has been found to be more common in people who have dental issues such as missing teeth or a misaligned bite.
What Causes Bruxism: Causes Of Secondary Bruxism
When a person has secondary bruxism, their teeth grinding is caused by something else.
Certain types of medication may cause you to grind your teeth at night. Antipsychotic and antidepressant medications can cause bruxism as a side effect.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, which are linked to stress, are commonly found to contribute to teeth grinding bruxism.
Patients who have neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are associated with teeth clenching.
Sometimes teeth grinding is a sign of a more serious sleep disorder called sleep apnoea. When you have sleep apnoea, the quality of your sleep is disturbed as you struggle to breathe. In sleep apnoea cases, bruxism is a symptom, and in order to treat it, you would need to address the sleep apnoea.
Treating Primary Bruxism
Using a custom-fitted mouthguard can protect your teeth and jaws if you clench and grind your teeth at night. While it doesn’t treat the cause of bruxism, it can help you to minimise the damage done to your teeth and jaw joints.
Mouthguards are made from flexible plastic, and are fitted over the front of your teeth. They provide a layer of cushioning that stops the surfaces of your teeth from coming into contact with one another, so you do not do more damage.
They also stop the noises that come from grinding your teeth, which will make your bed partner much happier.
If you have a misaligned bite or missing teeth, these dental issues should be addressed as soon as possible, to prevent further damage.
Creating a bedtime routine and not ingesting stimulants four to five hours before bed can help to manage teeth grinding more effectively. You will definitely sleep better if you stop drinking caffeine a few hours before bedtime. And, if your grinding is a symptom of sleep apnoea, it’s much better for your overall health to quit smoking and avoid alcohol before bedtime, as you will get a more restful night’s sleep.
The Importance Of Treating Underlying Conditions
If mental health issues are contributing to your teeth grinding bruxism, it’s a good idea to resolve them. Anxiety, stress and depression can have a litany of effects on your overall health and wellbeing and, even if teeth grinding is a new development in your life, finding ways to cope with mental health issues can spare you from problems later on.
Professional mental health interventions are very beneficial but there is also merit in finding ways to relax yourself on a daily basis. Techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are calming for your central nervous system and can help you to train your mind to respond to stressful situations in a more constructive way.
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Bruxism (teeth grinding)
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What is bruxism or teeth grinding?