Teeth grinding is a common habit. People do it when they are frustrated, angry, irritated, or in pain. Gritting one’s teeth is a fairly common response to stress. However, there is a limit to how much your teeth can bear. If you constantly exert that level of pressure on your teeth, they will eventually start to wear down. Regular teeth grinding is called bruxism and it can lead to several health problems.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism often refers to grinding teeth in sleep. It happens when a patient subconsciously clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth, especially during sleep. Some patients clench down so hard that their partner can hear the grinding noises, which indicates just how harsh this can be on the teeth.
Grinding teeth is a habit people can develop for several reasons. It is important to visit the dentist and work on ways to reduce the damage to your teeth.
Teeth Grinding at Night – Why Do People Do it?
As mentioned before, teeth grinding often happens due to stress and anxiety. They are some of the primary causes of teeth grinding, however, there are other reasons why people may experience it. Some of the causes include:
- Abnormal Bite – If you have a normal bite, your upper and lower teeth will not touch when you are in a relaxed, and natural state. However, if you have an abnormal bite, teeth grinding will become a regular habit.
- Misaligned Teeth – Misaligned teeth can also cause bruxism as they create an abnormal bite as well. If one or more of your teeth are crooked, consider getting teeth aligners or braces to get them straightened. That can help reduce grinding teeth at night.
- Missing Teeth – Missing teeth should be replaced as quickly as possible to avoid problems like bruxism. When a tooth falls, the surrounding teeth lean into the empty space gradually, which creates misaligned teeth and an abnormal bite. Naturally, can lead to teeth grinding at night.
- Sleep Apnea – Sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and even insomnia can sometimes cause teeth grinding in patients. You need to take protective measures to keep your teeth safe as you address the underlying issues.
These are the most common causes of bruxism and they’re all treatable. If you notice any symptoms, visit your dentist immediately and start working on a treatment plan.
Signs of Teeth Grinding in Sleep
Most people don’t realize they’re grinding teeth while they’re asleep and then fail to get the required treatment. Here’s a look at some of the most common signs:
- Dull Headache – People with bruxism often wake up with a dull headache or some sort of tension in their heads. This is often the result of grinding teeth all night long.
- Sore Jaw – Sore jaw is also one of the biggest symptoms of excessive teeth grinding. If you feel like there’s soreness or tension in your jaw even if you don’t remember clenching teeth, consider visiting a dentist for treatment.
- Excessive Wear – If you notice the two symptoms mentioned above, examine your teeth for excessive wear. If you notice some deformations, you may be clenching jaw during the night.
These are some of the biggest symptoms of bruxism. Don’t ignore signs like regular mild headaches or jaw soreness. Excessive wear can cause long-term, irreparable damage to your teeth and overall dental health.
Consequences of Teeth Grinding
We mentioned that excessive grinding can cause excessive wear. It is easy to underestimate just how damaging this can be. A serious cause of bruxism can cause a lot of damage like:
- Wearing down teeth
- Causing tooth cracks and fractures
- Loosening teeth at the root
- Complete loss of tooth
- Cause or worsen the temporomandibular joint disorder
In extreme cases, jaw clenching can also change the structure and shape of your teeth, which is permanent as well.
How to Stop Grinding Teeth in Sleep?
As there are several causes of teeth grinding, there are also several solutions. A dentist will develop a treatment plan based on the underlying cause of the issue. Here’s a look at some options available to you:
1. Get a Mouth Guard
The first step is to get a mouth guard to protect your teeth. These customized trays sit on top of your teeth and protect them against teeth grinding. They are tailored to bit comfortably on your teeth and not cause any sort of pain or strain. While it may take a few days to adjust to the foreign presence in your mouth, most people are able to sleep comfortably despite the tray.
Mouth guards are a protective measure but they only address the symptom and not the cause. You need to work with your doctors to get more comprehensive treatment based on the cause.
2. Manage Stress
If the root cause of grinding teeth is stress or anxiety, you need to schedule an appointment with a psychologist and get treatment from them. It is also a good idea to indulge in more relaxing activities before sleep like meditation, reading books, listening to soothing music, etc. The more relaxed you are during bedtime, the less likely you will be to grind your teeth.
Follow the treatment plan recommended by your psychologist and keep using the mouth guard until the dentist says you can stop. The combination of both can be an effective bruxism treatment.
3. Fix your Teeth
If bruxism is caused due to dental problems like misaligned teeth, missing teeth, or an abnormal bite, the only way to prevent grinding teeth in sleep is to fix your dental issues. For example, if your teeth are misaligned, you need to get braces or aligners. If one or more of your teeth are missing, you need to replace the missing teeth with an implant or a dental crown.
Fixing an abnormal bite may require a few more invasive treatment options. The dentist will examine your mouth carefully before determining what kind of treatment you need. Fixing your teeth is essential if you want to avoid regular headaches, jaw soreness, and damage to your teeth.
4. Muscle Relaxants
In some cases, your dentist will recommend muscle relaxants to ensure you don’t keep clenching your teeth. These relaxants will ease the strain on your jaw, reduce headaches, and help you avoid grinding your teeth even when you’re stressed out. Most dentists will combine this treatment with other treatments like physical therapy to help ease the tension build-up.
Muscle relaxants combined with physical therapy have proven to be remarkably effective in helping people to deal with bruxism symptoms.
People can actively train themselves to relax their jaw and avoid excessive strain. This usually happens during the daytime. If you notice you are clenching your teeth while you focus on work or are stressed out, take the time to relax your jaw and place your tongue between your teeth.
While this exercise may distract you temporarily, it will have some long-term benefits and allow you to relax. Relaxing your jaw will also help you ease some of the stress as well.
These tips can help you with teeth grinding and ease the symptoms as well. Follow the guidelines provided by your dentist and therapist for better long-term dental health.
Baby Grinding Teeth – What Should You Do?
Jaw clenching isn’t just an adult ailment. Many parents notice that their children grind their teeth too. Research suggests that around 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth and this usually happens during emergence. They are more likely to grind their teeth when their baby teeth and permanent teeth emerge. This is mostly because when their teeth are growing, they don’t have a properly aligned bite. They will stop grinding teeth when their teeth are fully formed.
Teeth grinding in children usually occurs when they are asleep. It can happen because of their growing, misaligned teeth, or it can happen due to underlying health conditions like:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Endocrine disorders
In most cases, addressing the underlying cause can help eliminate this problem entirely. If the child is experiencing bruxism due to their developing teeth, you only need to make sure their dental development is monitored professionally to ensure teeth grinding doesn’t affect the alignment and shape of their developing teeth.
Does my preschool child need treatment for teeth grinding at night?
A. No, they usually don’t need any intervention as the problem tends to go away on its own. However, your dentist may want to keep an eye on the development. Older children may get dental crowns or night guards.
Should I get a mouth guard to stop grinding teeth?
A. As explained in our post, teeth grinding often requires a more multilayered treatment, and mouthguards mostly address the symptom. Yes, you should get a mouth guard, but you will need additional treatment to eliminate the issue at the root.
3. Is chewing on pens, pencils, etc, a sign of bruxism?
Yes, chewing on non-food items continuously is a sign of teeth grinding. Most people tend to ignore this habit but it can damage your teeth.
If you experience any symptoms of grinding teeth, it is a good idea to book an appointment with your dentist immediately. Early treatment can help limit the damage to your teeth considerably.