The first time a person finds out that they grind their teeth in their sleep is usually when a dentist mentions it to them. It’s then they start to associate the symptoms of jaw pain, sore teeth and headaches with bruxism. So what is bruxism and is it bad for your teeth? The answer is a resounding yes.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism is thought to be influenced by stress, but it is curious that more children and teenagers are affected than adults. It could be caused by the onset of growing new teeth as the prime time for children to grind their teeth is when their baby teeth starts to grow, and again when they adult teeth comes in. After that, teeth grinding often goes away. Parents who have noticed their children grinding their teeth should be wary as teeth grinding is associated with stress and anxiety. If it continues for a prolonged period of time, you might want to talk to him or her or incorporate a de-stressing session prior to bedtime and avoid excitement right before they go to sleep.
For adults, however, it is a different story. While it can also be caused by an abnormal bite (which can be corrected through braces or reductive coronoplasty), it is often linked to mental unrest. If you are feeling particularly stressed, it might affect you more than usual. There are also sleeping disorders that might exacerbate the behavior, so you should go to the dentist and rule out any other reasons for teeth grinding.
This act will often grind down the enamel of the tooth, exposing it and making it more sensitive. One could lose their teeth permanently through teeth grinding. While it is possible to get a mouth guard to protect your teeth, the pressure exerted on your jaw is still unhealthy. There is also the potential of weakening your gums or even deforming your appearance by affecting your jaws.
Detecting the sleeping disorder is the first step to managing it. If you find yourself waking up with a dull headache, an ache in your jaws, sore gums or sensitive skin, you might want to begin asking loved ones if they have noticed you grinding your teeth in your sleep. Otherwise, head to the dentist as they will be able to tell if there are any tell-tale signs of bruxism by checking the condition of your teeth. Other symptoms include ear-ache, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and insomnia. Furthermore, sometimes the medication one is taking for their anxiety or depression might lead to bruxism. In the case of a person suffering from such disorders, it is important to bring up one’s bruxism with one’s doctor and see if there is an alternate medication one may take.
There is no cure for bruxism – dentists will often tell you to take it easy and participate in a stress-easing activity such as meditation, yoga or even reading a funny comic to alleviate stress. One can also pick up on a calming hobby such as knitting or chess, and even join a martial arts class to help direct any anger or excess emotional baggage. Jogging is another popular choice as the act itself forces the jogger to blank out their minds and it is rather meditative in a way, furthermore, being out in nature is a stress-busting tried and tested tactic.
Aside from cutting back on stress, a patient suffering from bruxism should also cut back on stimulants such as cola, chocolate, coffee and even alcohol. Gum is also something that teeth grinders should stay away from as it encourages the act of clenching your jaw, something that you want to avoid. If you notice that you are clenching your jaws in the day, learn to place the tip of your tongue between your teeth to discourage this behavior and actively try to relax your jaw.
Another method for fighting the habit is to create a relaxing bedtime routine. Light a scented candle or listen to calming music and allow yourself some time to settle instead of going straight to bed. If you are sharing your bed with someone, perhaps you can try to get them to wake you up whenever they hear you grinding – however, this might not work for everyone and could even make matters worse as the lack of sleep will cause sufferers to grind their teeth even more.
While there is no cure for bruxism, there are ways in which a teeth grinder is able to manage the situation. From making lifestyle changes to learning how to alleviate stress in their day to day life, it might be beneficial not only to their dental health, but their mental health and physical health in the long run.