If you grind your teeth at night, you might think it’s no big deal. But teeth grinding can lead to facial pain, headaches and even damage your teeth. Fortunately, there are ways to curb teeth grinding and prevent complications.
The medical name for teeth grinding is bruxism, and it involves clenching and rhythmically grinding the teeth. Although it can occur unconsciously while you’re awake, it’s more common while you sleep. When it occurs at night, it’s referred to as sleep bruxism, and it considered a sleep movement disorder.
You probably don’t know you grind your teeth unless you sleep partner has told you. But in addition to grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep, there can be other symptoms. For example, teeth grinding can also cause tooth sensitivity, sore jaw muscles and headaches, especially around the temples. Damage to the teeth can also develop. Over time, the tooth enamel can become worn. Tooth fractures and chips can also occur.
The exact reason why some people grind their teeth while they sleep is not understood. But it appears, in some cases, teeth grinding is associated with sleep arousals. Sleep arousals are common in people who have snoring and sleep apnea.
Varied physical and emotional conditions can also lead to teeth grinding including the following:
Although teeth grinding can affect anyone, some risk factors have been identified. For example, if you take stimulates, such as caffeine, it increases your risk of developing sleep bruxism. People with certain type personalities including those who are aggressive are at a higher risk of teeth grinding.
If teeth grinding is mild and not causing any dental problems or pain, treatment may not be needed. In other cases, grinding your teeth may cause dental issues or headaches and treatment may be recommended.
Different methods may be taken to curb teeth grinding including a dental approach. A dental approach involves wearing either a mouth night guard for clenching or a mandibular advancement device. Although a mouthguard does not cure teeth grinding, it keeps your teeth separated to avoid damage to the teeth.
A mandibular advancement device works by repositioning your tongue and lower jaw. The device pulls the tongue forward while pushing the jaw down. It may also help prevent the tongue from obstructing the airway, which makes it a good option for people who have sleep apnea and teeth grinding.
If you think teeth grinding is due to stress, you may benefit from stress reduction therapies. Various strategies may be used, such as breathing exercises, meditation and biofeedback.
Botox injections are a relativity new treatment for teeth grinding. Botox is injected into the masseter muscle, which moves the jaw. Botox relaxes the muscle to decrease grinding and clenching. Injections should be repeated every three or four months.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, self-care strategies and lifestyle changes may help decrease teeth grinding. For example, limiting stimulants, such as caffeine, a few hours before bed can decrease the severity of teeth grinding. Doing something relaxing before bed, such as reading or taking a warm bath, may help decrease stress, which can reduce symptoms.
Treating other sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, can also decrease teeth grinding. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, seeing a sleep specialist and undergoing a sleep study is a good place to start. A sleep study can help your doctor diagnose a sleep disorder and prescribe the most appropriate treatment.
The University of Maryland Medical Center. Bruxism. http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/bruxism Retrieved December 2016.
Mayo Clinic. Bruxism (teeth grinding). Treatment and Drugs. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/basics/treatment/con-20029395 Retrieved December 2016.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.