You may have heard the term teeth grinding before, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a condition where you grind your teeth together involuntarily, which can occur day or night. It can be very damaging to your teeth and can even lead to other health issues if left untreated.
Keep reading for more information about this consequential behavior.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism, or teeth grinding/clenching, is a condition that many people are not familiar with. When it happens at night unconsciously, it is referred to as sleep bruxism. However, if you are one of the millions who suffer from it, you know just how disruptive it can be.
What are the causes of bruxism?
There are a few possible causes of bruxism.
According to oral health specialists, the condition can occur when someone is overly stressed, angry, frustrated, or in pain. “There is some proof that in some people, bruxism is caused by an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters. Also, some medicines, such as the antidepressants fluoxetine and paroxetine, can cause bruxism.”
Recent findings show that bruxism due to daily SSRIs most commonly affects women. The specific anti-depressants noted in the study as being the ones that produce the bruxism side effects more often were Fluoxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine.
While this isn’t the same as sleep bruxism, taking certain recreational drugs can cause teeth grinding and jaw clenching, whether intended or not.
People who experience anxiety or overall tension throughout the day may clench or grind their teeth without even knowing it, leading to unwanted symptoms.
While being a woman is a risk factor, chronic teeth grinding is also more prevalent in individuals with certain disorders and conditions such as ADHD, GERD, epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as those with night terrors. This makes sense since night terrors produce fear and anxiety, which in turn causes tension.
Speaking of symptoms, there are several to be aware of when it comes to teeth grinding. If you’re experiencing one of the following symptoms, you might need to see a specialist to look at your pearly whites and check for bruxism.
Symptoms of bruxism
Did you know people with bruxism clench and bite down with up to six times more strength than those without bruxism? That’s a lot of power and a lot of potential for harm.
There are many health and wellness-related consequences of bruxism. The Journal of the American Dental Association describes what to look out for:
- Indentations along the side of the tongue
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Wear on your teeth
- Teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold
- Headaches (especially when you wake up)
- Restlessness during sleep
- Waking frequently during the night
- Daytime sleepiness
People might notice their teeth chipped or damaged once they visit the dentist for a checkup.
How are teeth grinding and sleep disorders related?
When people experience chronic sleep bruxism, they can be diagnosed with a sleep-related movement disorder. This disorder revolves around repetitive movements, and the main consequence is sleep disturbance. Another example of a sleep-related movement disorder is restless leg syndrome.
Once bruxism is diagnosed, treatment must begin for involuntary day and nighttime clenching and grinding to have the best possible outcome and avoid further damage.
Treatment for bruxism
When a person suspects they have bruxism, they can contact a sleep specialist, and the specialist will likely order a sleep study to observe episodes of teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
Depending on the bruxism’s severity and root cause, there are a few treatment options.
Treatments range from anxiety and stress management and wearing a mouth guard while sleeping to behavior modification, biofeedback, splints, and dental correction. And while research is continuing in the area of bruxism treatment with medications, some possible medication-related approaches are available. These include Botox injections, certain anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications, and the use of muscle relaxants.
A sleep specialist can guide you toward the most effective treatment plan for your particular case.
Millions of individuals are affected every year, day and night, by teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which means millions live in discomfort, pain, and exhaustion. If left untreated, bruxism can cause a litany of other health problems down the road, and it can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, which we also need for our mental health. That’s why it’s important to find out if you have bruxism and get professional help to fix your symptoms. If you think you may be grinding your teeth while asleep, find out from a professional and get the treatment you need to protect your smile and overall health.