Teeth Grinding, Causes and Solutions
Teeth Grinding: Why do we do it?
Many people in the United States and elsewhere suffer from regular grinding of their teeth. The proper name for this is bruxism, although it is often referred to as, quite simply, “teeth grinding.”
Bruxism is a parasomnia which is basically abnormal behaviors during different sleeping states. It is fairly widespread and has been seen to affect up to as much as 10% of us (higher percentage in children.) Teeth grinding can also occur, unintentionally, while you are wide awake, sometimes stemming from stress or anger, but you can usually tell pretty quickly and stop. It can occur more frequently during your sleep if you consume nicotine or caffeine before you go to bed. The main reasons for it happening are usually stress or anxiety.
Teeth Grinding: How to combat it.
Teeth grinding usually affects your incisors and canines, as they are moving against each other, damaging enamel, losing their edges, and it can also knock out fillings, veneers, and other prostheses in those and other teeth. Your molars may also grind together as well. This occurs when you sort of clench your teeth, and move them side to side.
If you do grind your teeth at night, you will often tell because of the discomfort in your jaw, teeth, or if you wake up with a headache. There is a lot of force involved in teeth grinding and this contributes to the quicker wearing of your teeth.
There does exist things which will minimize impact of your teeth while grinding at night, and if used properly, significantly reduce the damage done on your teeth and jaw joints. A very useful device for this is a “night guard.” A night guard is, pretty simply, a barrier between the upper and lower arches of your teeth that protects your teeth and jaws from excess damage from teeth grinding. There are both generic versions of this found at drug stores and also lab made ones which are available through your dentist’s office. Night guards work by separating your teeth slightly and protecting the enamel so the force of grinding is transferred mostly to the appliance. The lab made devices can last quite some time as well (depending, of course, how much you are grinding.) Most night guards have a soft “inside” and a harder “outside.” They are made by taking impressions of your teeth in the dental office, as well as a something called a “bite registration.” These are sent off to a dental lab and the lab will custom make a night guard specifically for the shape of your teeth.
Teeth Grinding: More about.
Sometimes, the first time someone learns about the teeth grinding is while sitting in a dental chair. The dentist can see the effects of bruxism on your teeth, even if you have had no other symptoms. While looking at xrays they can see that enamel has been reduced and often times, the molars or premolars, actually appear flatter than is normal. The much more insidious problem with grinding is, as it reduces the amount of enamel you have on your teeth, there is consequently less protection from tooth decay caused by bacteria in your mouth.
Any way you look at it, teeth grinding is a serious issue that should be addressed and handled. There are stress relieving actions you can do as well, before you go to sleep (yoga, deep breathing techniques etc.) that could benefit. You could drink hot tea, listen to gentle music, or other things that help you relax. There is no real “cure” for bruxism, so stress relief, anxiety alleviation and preventative measures (such as a night guard) are the normal course.
If you do notice that your jaws are aching, you are waking up with headaches, or your teeth are generally sore, you should come in and see a dentist who can help alleviate the problem. Better that than teeth cracking, fracturing, and dental work being destroyed.
Stay healthy my friends.