Do you grind your teeth when you're stressed or sleeping? It could be bruxism
Clenching of teeth is a condition where people indulge in repetitive grinding of teeth while they’re wide awake and even after they fall asleep.
Many of us clench and grind our teeth either when we’re angry or in an extremely stressful or painful situation, and that’s normal. It does not cause much harm.
But is your partner not being able to sleep at night because of the loud grinding noises you make? Or do you wake up in the morning and find your jaw sore? This kind of grinding could potentially harm you in a irreversible way.
Clenching of teeth, medically known as bruxism, is a condition where people indulge in repetitive grinding of teeth while they’re wide awake and even after they fall asleep (nocturnal/ sleep bruxism).
Why do people clench and grind their teeth?
There are several reasons behind bruxism but stress tops the list. People who have increased levels of hostility and stress sensitivity might trigger conscious bruxism.
A study done on sleep bruxism showed that 86% of the nocturnal bruxism occurs due to an arousal response. Arousal response is a sudden change in the depth of your sleep during which your responses include abnormal body movements, increased heart rate, heavy breathing, increased muscle activity and grinding of teeth.
Sometimes, any disarrangement of your teeth, for instance, a tooth that is a bit higher than the rest, can make it difficult for you to bite (occlusion). This can also lead to bruxism.
What harm can bruxism cause?
The classic impact of bruxism is seen as worn-down, flattened and fractured teeth.
This continuous trauma to the teeth, makes them prone to extreme sensitivity and sudden pain, as the grinding chips off the outer protective layer of the teeth leading to nerve exposure.
Nocturnal or sleep bruxism is a matter of bigger concern because when the person is asleep, the forces are much greater and the grinding continues for prolonged periods.
Studies have stated that if the clenching and grinding continue for more than five minutes, it can cause damage to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discs. TMJ is a joint where your lower jaw bone connects to the base of the skull.
The individual may also complain of facial pain or sore jaws upon waking up.
Due to continuous clenching, the person can also suffer from headaches or earaches.
The possible treatment
People with bruxism must maintain proper sleep hygiene measures which involve avoiding smoking and drinking of coffee or alcohol at night, limiting physical activity before going to bed, and ensuring that the bedroom is quiet and dark. This helps in avoiding stress.
Splint therapy which involves the use of mouth guards, also known as night guards, could prevent the tooth wear and the grinding noise during nocturnal bruxism.
Night guards are made from laminates and acrylics and their pre-formed versions are available at every pharmacy. The better option is a true custom-fit night guard, which is made by dentists by taking a dental impression of your teeth.
Injecting botox directly into the muscles that are responsible for chewing and moving the jaw (masseter and temporalis) could help in relaxing them, thus preventing unintentional grinding and clenching.
Another medical treatment that has been effective in bruxism is contingent electrical stimulation. It is a procedure that involves applying a low-level electrical stimulation on the muscles of mastication (muscles that help in chewing) when they become active, i.e. during the bruxism episode.
For more information, please read our article on Bruxism.
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