As you may have heard, teeth grinding in your sleep can be highly annoying to anyone who has to share a room or a bed with you. But more importantly, grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep, the formal term for it is “bruxism”, can be very harmful to your teeth and jaws and supporting muscles.
One of the potential problems that people can notice from bruxism, if left untreated long enough, is jaw pain and headaches. Some people even notice that clenching their teeth during sleep can result in waking with headaches (typically tension headaches), but it can also be a trigger for migraine headaches. Another early warning sign is wear on the teeth as they really should not have more than just the slightest amount of wear. Teeth are meant to last a lifetime!
While an annoying and harmful habit, teeth grinding is actually a symptom of other underlying conditions. Unfortunately most dental schools continue to teach that there is no cure for this grinding, however it has been completely resolved in many cases and as most often it is a symptom of a bite issue, it can and should be corrected. After all, finely ground may be the way to go with your morning coffee, but it’s not how you want your teeth at night!
The Causes of Teeth Grinding
Remember we said teeth grinding wasn’t a condition in and of itself, but a symptom of some other underlying cause? There are several common causes of teeth grinding, including:
- Abnormal alignment of teeth – In children and teens, a misalignment of the teeth or jaws is far and away the most likely cause grinding. Due to environmental issues such as allergens, the jaws and airway develop into a less than ideal arrangement and this creates a series of consequences. That poor jaw alignment is a chronic nuisance to your system and the body tries to fix it by activating the muscles. In turn, the muscles do what they do and that’s squeeze and slide the teeth around trying to eliminate this noxious area. Unfortunately this doesn’t provide any means to get the bite right and so you simply grind and grind and grind away tooth structure.
- Drugs and medications – Antidepressants are believed to be one cause of teeth grinding. Other drugs and medications used to treat psychiatric conditions are also being considered as a source of teeth grinding.
- Illness or disease – Some conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, impair the nervous system, which can cause jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
Treatments for Teeth Grinding
There are several common treatments for teeth grinding, depending on the severity of the problem, and the underlying cause. These include:
- A mouth guard – Mouth guards fit over the teeth and there are many different kinds made to accomplish many different things. Cheaper ones will simply distribute the load across all the teeth. Dentists with the training to evaluate and relax the musculature can actually make an orthotic that levels out and balances these jaw and bite problems and allows the system to settle down and stop grinding completely. Something like this would be more involved and would likely be a larger investment, however it also gets to the root of the problem and not simply masking symptoms. Many patients choose to utilize a more stable solution once the problem is addressed, and finalize the bite where it should be with orthodontics or restorative solutions.
- Obviously with medication or illness causing the grinding, the most reasonable solution would be to consider changing the medications or to heal the illness.
Teeth grinding need not keep you or your roommate up at night. It is treatable and can be a temporary problem. Look into the deeper reasons you might be grinding your teeth and try to address them. It will have you sleeping peacefully, and quietly, in no time.