Whether you gnash, grit or grind your teeth, the pressure and damage caused by clenching your jaw long term can be very painful. What is particularly difficult about guarding your teeth from this pressure is that many people grind their teeth unwittingly in their sleep. Whether from stress or the misalignment of your jaw, grinding your teeth during the night is hard to recognize until you are already in pain. To best protect yourself from the damage caused by teeth grinding, it is important to learn what it is and what can be done about it.
The Root of Teeth Grinding
Grinding your teeth is not an uncommon experience. In fact, it has made its way into one of the most common idioms in the English language. Many people will grind their teeth at some point in their life whether out of outrage or unconsciously, but most of the people who suffer from teeth grinding consistently are between the ages of 25 and 44. When you begin to grind your teeth consistently, this becomes a medical problem called bruxism. Bruxism is often experienced by people who don’t even realize that they have a problem because it often occurs subconsciously and usually while they are asleep. Many people find that it happens more when they are feeling stressed or anxious, and it can also be the product of missing teeth, crooked teeth, or an abnormal bite. People who grind their teeth regularly and unknowingly may begin to suffer from jaw pain as well as damage to their teeth, such as the wearing of the enamel. Many people also experience regular headaches and jaw aches as a result of grinding their teeth at night. The Mayo Clinic suggests that people who suffer from bruxism are also more likely to have other sleeping disorders like sleep apnea or snoring.
Can the Grinding Be Stopped?
Many people don’t realize that they are grinding their teeth in their sleep until more serious side effects have taken place. They may suffer from daily, dull headaches and possibly a sore jaw in the morning. However, the effects of consistent teeth grinding are often noticed by dental professionals. This is just one of many reasons that it is important to visit your dentist regularly. A dentist will be familiar with the tell-tale signs of bruxism, and they can often pick them up before serious damage has been done to your teeth. Grinding teeth in sleep is a problem can be solved by many solutions.
Teeth Grinding Solutions
One of the first things to consider when you find out that you subconsciously grind your teeth is to look for options to reduce your stress. Almost 70 percent of bruxism may be caused by stress and anxiety according to the NHS. Reducing your stress and having a more relaxed night will benefit not only your teeth, but your health as a whole. If you are currently taking any form of antidepressant, this may contribute to bruxism as it is a well-known side effect of many antipsychotic and antidepressant medications. You may also want to consider your lifestyle choices such as smoking and how much alcohol and caffeine your consume, especially before bed.
A primary option is to consider a mouth guard. A mouth guard works as a behavioral therapy that both protects your mouth from the damage of grinding and reducing the feeling of clenching in your mouth. Another option is to consider using muscle-relaxation techniques and exercises. Relaxing your mouth will help your body relax and train your jaw to stop clenching in the middle of the night.
If you lead a very stressful life or are ridden with anxiety, you can consider trying cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a common method used to treat people suffer from anxiety. The aim of CBT is to help you deal with problems in a positive way so that you don’t suffer from the physical manifestations of serious anxiety or stress.
A final thought is to consider your sleeping routine. Avoiding caffeine before bed and going to bed at the same time every day can help promote a healthy sleep cycle and a healthy lifestyle. While it is not proven to stop bruxism, healthy sleeping habits will help reduce the anxiety and stress in your life, which will in turn provide many positive benefits.
Considering a Nocturnal Bite Plate or Occlusal Splint
According to The Bruxism Association, a mouth guard is the only proven way to protect your mouth from the damage caused by subconsciously grinding your teeth in your sleep. There are several mouth guards available including a ready-made mouth guard, a mouth adapted mouth guard or a custom made mouth guard provided by a dentist. Many of them look like sports mouth guards; however, they are molded and designed to fit the contours of your teeth. Many of these devices are made of a type of plastic, and they may be referred to as different names such as a bite plate, occlusal bite guard or night guard. Most of them serve the same purpose, which is to keep the jaw aligned properly so that it does not clench and grind during the night.
Teeth grinding can come from a variety of causes but like many sleep problems, it is often caused by stress and anxiety. To take care of your teeth, it is important to take care of yourself. By making routine trips to the dentist and considering your stress levels, you can guard your teeth against night time grinding and keep your smile healthy.