According to the American Sleep Association, the prevalence rate of sleep bruxism is around 15%.
This common sleep disorder becomes less in adults, and only around 3% of the adult population can experience it.
But, what causes this condition? In this article, we will discuss its effects and how to avoid bruxism when you sleep.
Sleep Bruxism Overview
Teeth grinding, bruxism, or jaw clenching, is a condition where there is a repetitive jaw-muscle activity.
This is characterized by teeth clenching or grinding.
When we talk about sleep bruxism, we refer to it as one of the common sleep disorders that occurs during stressful conditions.
Symptoms of Sleep-Related Bruxism
The main symptom of bruxism is involuntary teeth grinding where the grinding movement resembles chewing but involves more force.
For people who clench their teeth at night, episodes of clenching only occur.
Some individuals may have up to 100 episodes of clenching and these episodes are inconsistent. Sometimes, they do not happen every night.
1) Neck and Jaw Pain
Aside from teeth grinding, some of the symptoms of bruxism include jaw pain. Eventually, this jaw issue can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ.
Usually, sore jaw muscles can be observed as soon as you wake up.
To manage jaw pain caused by sleep-related bruxism, you can consider talk therapy, physical therapy, practice stretch exercises, and drinking plenty of water.
Neck pain is also a symptom of sleep-related bruxism.
When people grind their teeth, they aggravate the muscles in the neck.
To manage this, you can consider using a muscle relaxant, or for prevention, you might want to consider night guards for teeth grinding.
2) Morning headaches
Aside from painful jaw and neck muscles, having morning headaches is also a sign of sleep-related bruxism.
According to the University of Utah, jaw pain associated with headaches is caused by muscle irritability and muscle tension.
Also, the headaches can be observed toward the end of the day.
3) Teeth damage
Teeth damage is also a sign of teeth grinding.
When you wake up and experience jaw or neck issues, try looking in front of a mirror and check for loose teeth or any signs of wear.
According to the American Dental Association, there has been a more than 60% increase in the number of dental patients being admitted to dental clinics due to teeth grinding or bruxism.
What Causes Teeth Grinding
Generally, when you are stressed, you tend to grind your teeth.
This is an involuntary reaction that can happen while you are awake or asleep. However, it is less likely to know that you grind your teeth when sleeping.
Additionally, when you grind your teeth while sleeping, you put much force up to around 250 pounds.
Apart from stressful conditions, there are other causes of sleep-related bruxism, and in this section, we will discuss some of those.
1) Anxiety and depression
According to a study from the United States, the most significant causes of teeth grinding are anxiety and depression.
Grinding your teeth during stressful events is a common reaction that you may bring even when you sleep at night.
Medically known as sleep apnea, snoring can also cause teeth grinding.
According to a sleep study from Israel, after stress, snoring is considered the highest risk factor for teeth grinding at night.
Eventually, the association of these two can cause sleep disruptions due to breathing irregularities.
To manage the snore, practicing breathing treatments is highly advised as this can also help treat bruxism.
3) Cigarette smoking
According to a study from The Netherlands, smoking increases the levels of nicotine and dopamine.
Eventually, high levels of these neurotransmitters can increase the risk of developing bruxism.
According to a study from Italy, even secondhand smoking can cause teeth grinding.
If someone smokes in your household and you observe the symptoms of bruxism with your children, check your child’s teeth or consult a dentist as soon as possible.
Take note that children may also grind their teeth when their baby teeth emerge and when their permanent teeth come out.
4) Alcohol consumption
According to some dentists, excessive drinking can increase the risk of developing the habit of grinding teeth at night.
Although occasional drinking is thought to improve sleep, in reality, it can disrupt sleep patterns.
In one clinical review, it was confirmed that those who drink alcohol are more at risk of bruxism and this condition can be worsened after a night of drinking.
Effects of Teeth Grinding
It is vital to understand the consequences of teeth grinding at night.
Short-term grinding of teeth is understandable but long-term one should be treated.
If not, the following consequences can occur:
1) Dental problems
When bruxism becomes a habit, dental problems can occur. Your teeth can become painful and erode.
Eventually, you might need to undergo dental surgeries and other treatments such as dental crowns and implants.
2) Problems with jaw muscles
Bruxism can increase the risk of TMJ and TMD or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, making you have a hard time chewing.
However, the severity of TMJ will still depend on the severity of grinding.
According to some dentists, misaligned teeth, diet, and lifestyle are also culprits.
3) Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) is also associated with both awake bruxism and sleep-related bruxism.
GERD damages your teeth which can eventually cause your bite to collapse. Eventually, this can lead to teeth grinding.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): 5 Ways To Stop It And Protect Your Teeth
Knowing all of these symptoms and dangerous effects, it is essential to learn how to stop grinding teeth.
In this section, we will discuss some tips on how to prevent, manage, and treat bruxism.
1) Stress reduction
If you want to stop grinding your teeth at night, make sure that before you go to sleep, your mind is peaceful.
To reduce stress, you can consider meditation or a warm bath to relax your jaw.
Physical therapy can also provide stress management.
According to a study from Colorado, stress management is a useful technique for patients experiencing painful conditions.
You can also consider medications that can manage stress or reduce stress.
Some of these are anti-anxiety medications but before taking an oral medicine to manage stress, make sure that your medical provider has approved the use of it.
3) The use of a night guard
A night guard or mouth guard can also help reduce teeth grinding.
Generally, a night guard works by preventing teeth or mouth damage that occurs due to bruxism.
If a night guard is not available, the use of a dental splint to reduce snoring is also considered.
4) Symptoms relief
Symptom relief can be done at home or by a medical professional.
If patients do not prefer oral medications, therapies such as talk therapy can be tried.
Stretching exercises, such as opening your mouth wide while touching your tongue to your front teeth are also effective.
5) Healthy diet and lifestyle
If you want to stop grinding teeth, it is also necessary to change your diet and lifestyle. Avoid alcohol or any food that can trigger bruxism.
Exercising is also essential for managing stress and improving jaw movement.
Indeed, sleep-related bruxism may be taken as a normal condition that does not affect overall health.
However, if this condition is not avoided, it can cause health harm.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent bruxism from occurring. Some of these are changing lifestyles and muscle stretches in the mouth.
For patients experiencing bruxism who cannot control it, aids such as mouthpieces can be considered.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I cure sleep-related bruxism?
Patients cannot cure bruxism. However, some treatments and aids can help these patients manage and prevent this disorder.
Can muscle relaxers help with bruxism?
Muscle relaxers are effective medications that can prevent teeth grinding. Before using any of these, seek medical consultation for the safer use of drugs.
Who is most at risk for bruxism?
Bruxism is less common in adults. Children 8-12 years old are most at risk of developing this disorder.