Also known as bruxism, grinding of the teeth is considered to be a sleep related disorder. Lots of people grind their teeth or clench their jaw, from time to time – when under stress or feeling anxious. And, in the majority of cases it doesn’t cause damage or harm to the teeth. Regular grinding however can cause damage to the teeth, as well as related complications but in order to follow the appropriate course of treatment you first need to know what causes a person to grind their teeth. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Teeth Grinding Bruxism?
Many of us clench the jaw or grind the teeth when we are awake, when we experience periods of stress and anxiety. When teeth grinding bruxism occurs at night while we are asleep and is accompanied by other symptoms such as snoring, it is often a sign of a condition known as sleep apnoea.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Teeth Grinding?
You may notice the physical signs of grinding on your body, and feel the effects of the stress in your head, neck and shoulders. Your dentist is more likely to notice the effects on your teeth however, and your bed partner may experience sleep disruptions during the night.
- Grinding the teeth at night, which is often done loudly enough that your bed partner wakes up
- Tooth sensitivity and pain, caused by worn down tooth enamel
- Visible signs on your teeth such as worn down tooth enamel
- A tired jaw or sore jaw muscles
- A locked jaw on waking
- Pain in the jaw, face or neck, or close to the ear area (despite the fact that it is not ear pain)
- Interruptions to your sleep
- Headaches, especially after waking in the morning
So, What Causes A Person To Grind Their Teeth?
It is not fully understood what causes teeth grinding bruxism but it is believed to be due to a combined effect of psychological, genetic and physical factors. The condition is grouped loosely into two major categories:
- Awake bruxism
- Sleeping bruxism
Awake bruxism is usually caused by emotional or psychological factors such as anxiety and lifestyle stress. It may be exacerbated when you go through intense periods of stress in your life.
Some doctors believe that certain people develop the habit as a coping mechanism to help them through stresses.
Sleep bruxism is more of a sleep-related disorder that occurs when you start to wake up during the night.
What Are The Risk Factors Associated With Teeth Grinding Bruxism?
Bruxism occurs more frequently in children, and then dissipates as you get older
Use Of Medications, Drugs And Alcohol
Some medication, like antidepressants, have been observed to increase teeth grinding. Drinking alcohol, using tobacco products and taking recreational drugs may also increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
The condition is also quite genetic and if other family members suffer from it, your chances of developing it are elevated.
When your stress levels elevate so too do your chances of grinding your teeth – particularly when you are awake.
Other Medical Conditions
Sometimes grinding occurs along with other conditions. People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, night terrors, ADHD and sleep apnoea are all more likely to experience bruxism.
How Do You Stop Bruxism?
Managing Stress And Anxiety Effectively
It is probably easier to address daytime bruxism, as you have greater control over your habits when you’re awake. Developing an awareness of neck and jaw tension is integral to stopping teeth grinding when you are awake. So many of us carry stress and tension in our upper bodies, but we are often not even aware of it at all.
Being able to manage stress and tension is an important skill that we all need to master, and following through with the appropriate stress relief techniques can have a profound ability on the body and mind’s ability to manage stress appropriately – when we sleep and when we are awake. It is estimated that up to 70% of people who experience teeth grinding bruxism do so because of stress-related disorders. Following practices such as breathing exercises, meditation and yoga may help you to manage the manifestation of stress in your body better.
Wearing A Mouthguard
For many people teeth grinding bruxism occurs when they are asleep, and some people may never be able to fully understand the root cause of it. In other people the consequences of the disorder can be very damaging to the mouth and teeth, and they may need help while the causes of the disorder are still being investigated.
To this end, wearing a mouthguard at night can be an important barrier in preventing further damage to the teeth, jaw and facial structures. Oral appliances, mandibular splints and mouthguards do an important job of keeping the jaw open and forward, so that the two jaws do not come into contact with one another and cause the friction-based wear and tear on your tooth surfaces.
Other management tips that could improve grinding while you sleep include:
- Avoiding System Stimulants
Avoiding stimulants like alcohol, sugar and certain medications, if not completely then at least in the hours before bed, can improve your symptoms.
- Develop A Bedtime Routine
Allow yourself to relax and switch off in the hours before bed. Switch off electronic devices, have a warm bath and put on some relaxing music to help you sleep.
- Become Aware Of Daytime Clenching
Massage your jaw muscles or place a finger or pencil between your jaws when you feel yourself start to clench so you develop the necessary awareness.
If you’d like a more personalised diagnosis of what causes a person to grind their teeth please contact us for an appointment.