A full night of sleep should make you feel refreshed and revitalized, brimming with energy. But what if you wake up with headache, sore teeth, neck pain or God forbid a chipped tooth? It’s frustrating to feel exhausted with aches at the start of the day. The reason you might feel this way could be because you grind your teeth during sleep. Teeth grinding also known as bruxism is a habit that has wide-ranging effects on your teeth as well your head and neck. Let’s find out why this happens and what you could do to overcome it.
How common is bruxism?
Teeth grinding is more common in children. About one-third of children have this habit. As per research studies, it occurs in about 13% of adults. People grind their teeth at night without being aware.
What is bruxism?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine defines bruxism as the “repetitive jaw muscle activity characterized by the clenching or grinding of teeth and/or bracing or thrusting of the mandible.” Which means not just grinding your teeth and clamping down on your jaw; but also moving your lower jaw from side to side or front to back.
Common signs of bruxism:
If the severity of bruxism is mild, then there might be no signs that you notice. During teeth grinding the mandible or the lower jaw is thrust or closed forcefully, so the muscles along with the joint that moves it are overworked, making them sore. Bruxism puts a massive amount of force on your jaws. So you will wake up with a pain in the head, ear, jaw, and face.
Since the temporomandibular joint i.e. the jaw joint is very close to the ear canal, pain is bound to affect the ear. This pain can radiate or travel to the ear, sinuses. Ringing in the ears is also common. Neck pain can occur as these muscles also get involved.
Problems with the joint like clicking and pain on opening are very common. This is referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMD. Mere opening and closing your jaw can be painful. In worst-case scenarios, the joint can become locked and you will need professional intervention to open your mouth!
Severe grinding has many detrimental effects on your teeth. As teeth come forcefully in contact with each other for long periods during grinding, the enamel on their surface starts to wear down. So when you look at your teeth, they appear chipped, rough, damaged and flat. Fillings can break down. Abfractions, which are V or wedge-shaped facets, occur on teeth at the gum line. You can look in the mirror and find out for yourself. Sensitivity to cold and hold food and beverages start to occur. Gradually, with such enormous destructive forces teeth start to become loose.
This is when visiting your dentist can help. Such excessive wear and tear of teeth is noticed by your dentist and you can be guided about the treatment in time.
Understanding the Causes of bruxism
The exact cause of bruxism is still not known. Research has shown that bruxism is caused by a combination of factors that are physical, psychological and genetic in nature.
Here are the factors that can put you at risk of grinding your teeth
Stress, anxiety, depression can make you grind your teeth. Notice how you react when you are frustrated or angry. Is it by clenching or grinding your teeth? Even being depressed or very sad can make you invariably grind your teeth. People who are highly competitive or aggressive are more prone to bruxism.
Sometimes it can run in the family. If one member of the family has bruxism, chances are the rest of the members can suffer from it too.
Taking certain medicines can increase a person’s risk of bruxism – medicines such as some antidepressants, consuming alcohol and even smoking.
Some other disorders
Disorders like Parkinson’s disease, eating disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders like Obstructive sleep apnea, mental disorders like dementia can put a person at risk of bruxism.
If your teeth in the upper and the lower jaw don’t fit into each other when you close your mouth, it can cause grinding due to the interferences.
Bruxism is very common in children, especially those under the age of six years. Usually, this goes away when they get their adult teeth.
How can your dentist help?
Your dentist can most likely be the first doctor to diagnose your bruxism. Your dentist can diagnose your bruxism during the examination and by correlating your answers to questions about your lifestyle, dental and general health and medicines.
He or she will examine your jaw muscles, joints as well as teeth and restorations. Cracks, broken teeth or facets/specific types of wear of teeth can give a clue to your bruxism.
X-rays also come in handy as they will reveal bone loss around teeth. Depending upon the cause, your dentist can refer you to other specialists.
Depending upon the cause your bruxism can be treated.
If you grind your teeth due to an abnormal bite, your dentist can check your bite and reduce or grind down the spots that are interfering in your bite called ‘high spots’.
A night guard or splint is a dental device that covers either your lower or upper teeth and doesn’t let them touch each other. Getting a custom-made nightguard from your dentist is the best solution as it fits your teeth like a glove. It is made from impressions taken of your teeth.
This will protect your teeth from harm but will not stop the habit of clenching your jaw muscles. For this, you have to find out the root cause and get treated accordingly.
Since stress and anxiety are some of the main factors behind tooth grinding, you need to find out ways to reduce them. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle stress has become an invariable part of our lives. But you have to learn strategies that will help you cope with it. Getting help from a licensed therapist is one way to learn about managing it.
You can try meditation and deep breathing exercises that can help you relax. Besides, taking nature walks, exercise, eating a balanced diet as well as exposure to bright sunlight for at least a few minutes daily releases happy hormones that can help you achieve serenity.
If a sleep-related issue is what causing bruxism, then visit a sleep therapist, who can identify problems like sleep apnea or sleep disorders.
Create a sleep conducive environment by keeping your bedroom free of distractions like TV screens. Don’t look at your smartphone 1-2 hours before going to bed as the white light emitted from it affects your sleep cycle. Do things that relax you such as taking a warm bath, reading a book. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day as a routine will help your body fall asleep quickly. Try not to discuss a stressful occurrence just before going to bed.
A few medications like muscle relaxants or injections of Botox can relax the overworked muscles and temporarily bring relief.
Getting treated by your physician
If medical conditions like an eating disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), etc. are responsible for your bruxism your physician can help.
Signature Smile is one of the best dental clinics in Mumbai, India that provides solutions to all your dental problems, including bruxism as well as general dental issues like dental cavities, gum diseases, damaged and missing teeth. So make an appointment today to get the finest quality care for all your dental needs.