There can be a lot of things standing between you and a good nights’ sleep. Often, people with sleep disorders don’t know they have them. All they know is that they wake up in the morning feeling as if they didn’t sleep at all.
Teeth grinding, aka bruxism, is one sleep habit that can significantly interfere with your quality of life. When you grind your teeth at night, you aren’t likely to get the deep sleep you need. The loud gnashing noises can also keep your partner up at night, which can lead to relationship stress and troubles.
Once you understand why teeth grinding happens–and why it’s such a serious problem–you can take the appropriate steps to reduce it.
Why Does Teeth Grinding Happen?
While there isn’t a single known cause of bruxism, there are several factors that can make someone more likely to grind their teeth. Stress can cause people to clench their jaw and press their teeth together. In some cases, a person’s personality can make them more likely to grind their teeth. People who tend to be high strung or aggressive might be more likely to have bruxism.
Bruxism is also relatively common in young children. Kids who grind their teeth typically grow out of the habit, though.
A few other factors that can contribute to teeth grinding include a person’s genes or family history, medical history, medications and lifestyle choices. Drinking alcohol or beverages with caffeine can make a person more likely to grind their teeth.
How Can You ID Bruxism?
If teeth grinding mainly happens while you sleep, how can you tell if you’re doing it? Well, if you share a room or a bed with someone, they might let you know if you make a lot of noise at night.
Often, bruxism leaves behind physical symptoms. You might notice that you wake up with a tension headache or with a sore jaw. If you catch your inner check between your teeth while grinding, you might have bite marks on the skin of your inner cheek.
Bruxism can also damage your teeth if it persists for a long period. Your teeth might chip or crack or you might notice that their edges are flattened. Left untreated, bruxism can exacerbate problems such as TMJ disorder.
Can You Prevent Teeth Grinding?
Understanding the cause of your teeth grinding can help you and your dentist cope up with preventative measures or coping strategies. If you grind your teeth because you’re stressed out, finding ways to relax your mind and your jaw might help reduce the tension while you sleep.
You might want to avoid drinking alcohol or having caffeine right before bed if you notice a connection between these substances and bruxism. If you’re grinding your teeth as a result of medication or a medical condition, changing your medicine or finding a way to treat the underlying condition might help.
Along with finding ways to reduce teeth grinding, your dentist might recommend treatments to protect your teeth. Wearing a custom-fit mouth guard while you sleep can provide a layer of cushioning between your teeth, reducing damage to the enamel.
Does Teeth Grinding Happen When You’re Awake?
Although bruxism is commonly considered a sleep disorder, there is a form of it that can occur while people are awake. Called awake bruxism, it occurs during waking hours and is usually a result of stress or deep concentration. If you find yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth while awake, you can learn relaxation techniques to help ease the tension in your jaw.
While teeth grinding might not sound like a big deal, without the right treatment or preventative measures, it can damage your teeth. You might even need restorative work or implants in the future. Working with your dentist now to get to the bottom of your bruxism can mean a healthier smile and a happier life.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also provides dental cleanings, exams, and dental implants. To learn more about his practice in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 to schedule a consultation today.