Teeth grinding, or bruxism as it is known medically, is a relatively common phenomenon that people can do during the day or at night when they are asleep. There are a number of contributors to teeth grinding bruxism but it is frequently associated with other sleep disorders. Managing teeth grinding can help to prevent further damage to your teeth and jaw. Let’s take a closer look at what happens if you grind your teeth.
What Is Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding bruxism is a condition characterised by involuntary clenching of the jaw and gnashing of the teeth. While jaw clenching can take place during the day, most people who grind their teeth together tend to do it at night when they are asleep.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Several reasons have been offered as to why some people grind their teeth. Some common causes include
- Psychological triggers like anxiety and stress
- Other medical conditions such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease
- As a side effect caused by taking other medications such as antidepressant
- Physical issues such as fillings that have been built up too high, jaw misalignment and missing teeth
What Happens If You Grind Your Teeth: Side Effects And Complications
While teeth grinding every once in a while can be fairly harmless, doing it regularly or consistently can lead to complications and damage. If left untreated teeth grinding may lead to
- Soreness or stiffness of the jaw, especially early in the morning
- Pain in the neck, ear or head
- Dental damage such as fractured, chipped, cracked or worn-down teeth
- Stiffness of the muscles in the face, especially in the morning after waking
- Tooth sensitivity
- Loose teeth
Grinding your teeth may also disturb your bed partner from sleep. For some people, hearing about it from their bed partner is the first awareness they may even have of their condition.
Teeth Grinding And Sleep Apnoea
Sometimes teeth grinding occurs in patients who have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). During obstructive sleep apnoea, your airways collapse, restricting the oxygen flow to your brain. This causes you to wake up many times during the night, but you may not be aware of it.
The consequence of this is sleep deprivation, which causes daytime fatigue, and problems with memory and concentration. It has also been associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease and occurs frequently in people who are overweight or obese and who are carrying some extra fat around their necks.
During apnoeic episodes, grinding and clenching is part of your body’s response to try and open your airways up and encourage breathing. If your bruxism is occurring because of sleep apnoea it is really important to visit a sleep clinic to manage it.
How To Manage Teeth Grinding?
While most people may go through bouts of bruxism in their lives and may stop on their own, treating it as soon as possible can help to minimise long term damage.
Psychological Causes Of Bruxism
Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy may be effective if a psychological cause is to blame for your bruxism. Daily meditation may help to calm your mind and central nervous system.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene can help you to relax before bed, and slip into a rhythm where your body is relaxed during sleep. Establishing good sleep hygiene includes
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Switching off electronic devices hours before bed
- Quitting caffeine and alcohol early enough so that they don’t interfere with your sleep
- Making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet enough at night. If necessary, consider investing in blackout curtains
Review Your Physical Exercise
Daily exercise is important for your body and brain. It can also help you to relax and manage stress better. If you are sedentary, make sure you are getting the required daily exercise for your age group.
Review Any Medications You Might Be Taking
Grinding can also be a side effect of chronic medications. If you are taking chronic medication, it is worth enquiring about grinding from your general practitioner.
Wear A Mouth Guard
Regardless of whether you are able to find the cause of your teeth grinding bruxism, wearing a mouthguard at night when you sleep can help you to avoid dental damage. A mouthguard can be fitted to the upper or lower jaw, creating a barrier between your teeth. While this can help to avoid damage to your teeth, it also reduces the pressure on your jaw, jaw joint and the muscles in your face.
Mouthguards absorb and redistribute impact, which means they soften the blow while you sleep.
So, What Happens If You Grind Your Teeth?
Teeth grinding can be the result of general lifestyle stress and anxiety, which can be managed through counselling and other psychological interventions. Mindfulness techniques such as yoga, meditation and tai chi can help you with stress reduction if it is the cause of your teeth grinding bruxism.
Review your sleep routine so that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and make sure you are getting good quality sleep.
Don’t wait for dental damage to occur if you grind your teeth. Invest in a mouth guard sooner rather than later so that you can minimise any damage to your teeth and jaws.
Speak to your doctor if you are taking any prescription medication or sedatives and find out if grinding is a side effect. Avoid stimulants in the hours before bed and reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake.
If you suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnoea, it’s important to get medical treatment as soon as possible.
For more information on what happens if you grind your teeth, or what you can do to protect your teeth, please contact us: