Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism. It is characterized by grinding or clenching teeth. There are two types of bruxism: awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. In general, awake bruxism has less severe effects and is the result of intense emotions such as anger or stress. Sleep bruxism is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. Grinding teeth at night can cause facial pain and damage to your teeth. Depending on the cause of your teeth grinding, you may outgrow it or its symptoms may periodically diminish. There are a variety of oral appliances that can help manage and reduce the impact of bruxing.
The causes of bruxism are not entirely understood. There is a combination of genetic, physical, and psychological factors that are thought to possibly cause teeth grinding. You are more likely to develop bruxism if you have other people in your family who grind their teeth, as it often runs in families. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching while awake usually stems from stress, high levels of concentration, or the experience of intense emotions, such as anger.
Initial signs of teeth grinding include worn-down teeth, tooth sensitivity, audible teeth grinding, and pain in your jaw, neck, or face. More serious complications can result from teeth grinding, which may require medical and/or dental intervention. It is possible to suffer tooth damage (such as broken teeth), develop a jaw disorder, or have tension headaches.
For many people, bruxism is a minor issue that they often outgrow when they reach adulthood; or, it never becomes severe enough to require treatment. For those who have moderate or severe bruxism, some kind of treatment is needed to mitigate the negative effects of teeth grinding. One form of treatment is to use a device that stops your teeth from getting damaged. One such common device is a mouth guard for teeth grinding or a splint that can prevent further tooth damage during sleep. These devices work by keeping your top and bottom teeth separated and unable to grind against each other.
If your teeth are already damaged, then dental correction can repair the damage done and restore the surface of your teeth.
Since teeth grinding and jaw clenching is often the result of stress, finding ways to manage your stress and anxiety can alleviate or eradicate it. Medications are not typically the most effective method of treating bruxism, but may be used on a short-term basis to help you relax. Often, if the teeth clenching is the byproduct of another sleep disorder, medication or illness that treats this underlying condition can help relieve the symptoms of bruxism.
In some cases, bruxism can go away on its own, or is a small enough issue that it doesn’t require treatment. There are oral appliances and methods to manage it if it's causing you face pain and tooth damage.
Yes, teeth grinding can cause what feels like ear pain. The temporomandibular joint is located close to the ear canal, and the pain in the jaw that you feel from teeth grinding can feel like it is in the ear.
Causes of teeth grinding are not entirely understood, and differ depending on when they occur. Awake bruxism is often caused by stress or high levels of concentration, or as a coping strategy for difficult situations. Sleep bruxism can be genetic, the result of stress, or a side effect of medication use. Or, it may accompany other disorders such as sleep apnea or Parkinson’s disease.
Yes, there is a wide selection of mouth guards you can purchase to prevent teeth grinding. Having a dentist mold one specifically for your teeth is often the most comfortable and effective. These mouth guards often look similar to the sleep apnea mouthpieces used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Mouth guards for bruxism work by preventing your teeth from touching and therefore prevent grinding.
Some people have found relief from teeth grinding and clenching teeth by the temporary use of muscle relaxants or sedatives. However, there is not enough evidence to prove the efficacy of pharmacy medications to treat bruxism.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.