Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is when a person clenches their jaw and the upper and lower teeth scrape and grind against each other. Most people who grind their teeth do so while sleeping, but some also grind their teeth during the day as a subconscious habit.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There is no one known cause of bruxism, but it is believed that a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors may be to blame. While teeth grinding during the day may be caused by emotions like anxiety or stress, teeth grinding at night may be caused by a number of different reasons:
- Sleep disorder
- Sleep-related chewing motions in between dream states
- An abnormal bite – your upper and lower teeth may overlap or otherwise not align well
- Certain jaw posture or positions
- Changes due to dental work or injury
- Psychological stress
It also can be helpful to know that certain factors make some people more prone to bruxism, such as:
- Age – Teeth grinding is common in children. Age-related bruxism usually goes away by adulthood.
- Family – Nighttime or sleep bruxism often runs in families, so if you have a parent, grandparent or sibling who grinds their teeth at night, you might be more likely to grind your teeth too.
- Personality type – People who tend to be high-strung, hyperactive, competitive or aggressive are more likely to grind their teeth.
- Medications, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine – Certain antidepressants, psychiatric drugs, other prescription medications and illegal drugs can increase your risk for bruxism. In addition, smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes, drinking alcohol regularly and drinking caffeinated beverages can cause teeth grinding too.
- Other disorders – Teeth grinding can also occur due to certain physical and mental health disorders and diseases, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea and night terrors.
These risk factors are things you can discuss with your dentist to see which applies to you and what solutions may work best. For example, if a medication is causing a teeth grinding habit, your dentist may be able to give you a different medication or may suggest you wear a dental guard at night until you have finished the medication.
Teeth Grinding Prevention and Treatment
If you suspect you suffer from teeth grinding at night, keep track of symptoms and talk to your dental hygienist at your next appointment. Your dental hygienist is also trained to spot commons signs and symptoms. The good news is that you can alleviate one of the biggest causes of sleep bruxism right now with these tips:
70% of bruxism sufferers clench and grind their teeth due to stress or anxiety. Before heading to bed, consider taking some time to wind down from the day. Take a hot shower or bubble bath, curl up with your favorite book, or practice meditation and mindfulness exercises. These can help you let go of the day’s negativity and allow your body to release any lingering tension. This is the easiest (and cheapest!) way to treat bruxism. If you’ve ever needed an excuse for a little extra “me time,” you’ve got one now!
Wear a Night Guard
If you are still having trouble teeth grinding, talk to your dentist about getting fitted for a nightguard or mandibular advancement device. Nightguards—also known as mouthguards, splints, or occlusal appliances—fit over your teeth and can help protect your teeth from grinding damage while reducing jaw muscle pain. Night guards are available over the counter or custom-made by your dentist. While custom-fit mouth guards can be more expensive, they may be a better option, depending on the severity of your bruxism. Talk to your dentist to determine what’s the best fit.
Mandibular Advancement Devices
Mandibular advancement devices are specially fitted appliances to bring your bottom jaw forward while you sleep. These are ideal for treating bruxism when it’s most likely caused by a sleep disorder. They also help manage snoring and sleep apnea. Unfortunately, no type of night guards or device can cure your bruxism. Still, they can help redistribute the grinding force and keep your teeth from suffering the consequences.
If bruxism has led to broken fillings, crowns, worn down, or fractured teeth, your dentist may need to restore your teeth with new fillings or crowns. Your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment to adjust your bite or correct tooth misalignment. Stress reduction methods are other options you can start today!
Putting an end to teeth grinding can help alleviate pain, preserve your teeth, and keep you smiling with confidence. Talk to your dentist to find the best treatment for you.
Behavioral Modifications for Teeth Grinding
Tips to help prevent teeth grinding include:
- Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Avoid or find the lowest effective dose for medications containing amphetamines use in treating ADHD and sleep disorders.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
Let our Dentists Take a Look
If you are experiencing dental problems related to Bruxism/Teeth Grinding, be sure to contact our dentist Lady’s Island, SC. Drs. Covington or DuRant can work with you to develop a solution to help alleviate your symptoms and restore function to your smile. To schedule an appointment, call (843) 986-0177 or request an appointment online.