Do you wake up with a sore jaw from grinding your teeth in your sleep? Perhaps your partner has noticed that you grind or clench your teeth in your sleep? You could have bruxism.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching, currently affects about 8% to 10% of the adult population. Bruxism includes the involuntary grinding and clenching of the teeth (1), and sometimes results in strange grinding noises.
Bruxism can cause abnormal wear and tear of the teeth and gums. Our teeth are not designed to be clenched or closed – in fact, teeth should only be touching when we eat our food, and only momentarily, as we chew. Bruxism can cause pain in the mouth, teeth and jaw, as well as cause headaches and face pain. On top of pain, long term teeth grinding can result in a breaking down of the enamel of the teeth, which can lead to further dental complications.
Often, people who grind their teeth during sleep are unaware that they do so – and it’s their partners that alert them to the fact they’re subconsciously doing it.
Individuals may also realise they’re grinding their teeth at night when they feel warning signs of pain in their face throughout the day, or pain and tenderness of the jaw first thing in the morning. If you are worried you’re clenching your teeth during sleep, look out for those signs.
Causes of bruxism
- Anxiety and emotional stress: stress is the leading cause of bruxism. This is because our bodies react to stress uncontrollably and subconsciously, whether we’re aware of it or not. When a person is suffering from stress and anxiety, the brain carries this stress over into sleep. This can result in teeth grinding in sleep, among other symptoms of stress and anxiety (such as insomnia, or talking during sleep).
- Drug use: excessive use of alcohol and drugs can cause bruxism to occur. Stimulants such as , alcohol, and other medications can cause the body to act out, even when we are asleep. If you are suffering from bruxism, we recommend cutting out alcohol, caffeine and any other drugs that you can remain to be physically healthy without.
- Sleep problems such as sleep apnoea can put stress on the body and result in bruxism as a side effect.
- Bad tooth alignment due to dental problems, or poorly done dental work, can also contribute to teeth grinding.
How can it be treated and prevented?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to stop grinding your teeth, a number of things can be done to help lessen the chances of bruxism to protect your teeth:
If you can relax your mind and body to prepare for sleep, you may lessen your chances of grinding your teeth due to stress or over–stimulation. Try to be mindful of sleep approaching, and try some breathing exercises or meditation in the evening.
We also recommend limiting your technology use before bed, and removing mobile phones from the bedroom. The blue light emitted by smartphones stimulates the brain, and actually makes it harder for us to fall asleep. Try reading a book instead, to allow your brain to wind down and become drowsy in a more natural way. Some people like to take a bath in the evening to help them relax. If you can reduce your stress levels before bed, you’re less likely to suffer from bruxism.
Counselling for anxiety, stress and depression
If you are suffering mental health issues, it’s a good idea to seek professional help in the form of counselling. If you are able to improve your , and fall asleep in a calmer state of mind, you’ll most likely decrease your chances of teeth grinding while sleeping.
If you suffer from teeth grinding through your sleep, consider investing in a night guard for bruxism. Mouthguards can be purchased to protect the teeth from grinding against each other, and some mouthguards can be customised to your jaw if necessary. Though mouthguards will not stop bruxism, they can help reduce the damage done to your teeth.
And lastly, don’t forget to make your bedroom as comfortable as possible.
Turning your bedroom into your sleep sanctuary and creating the ideal environment for sleep will promote a deeper, more restful sleep. Make sure you’re sleeping on a , and that you have a that supports your neck and provides with the level of comfort you need. We also recommend keeping your bedroom room at a cool room temperature, and ensuring it is dark, quiet and free from clutter. It’s all about finding what works best for you to relieve stress and create a restful, peaceful atmosphere for sleep.
- Sleep Health Foundation