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All About Bruxism, or Grinding Your Teeth While Sleeping

Bruxism is a condition where a person unconsciously grinds or gnashes their teeth together or constantly clenches and unclenches their jaw. Most often this condition results in a person grinding his or her teeth together while sleeping, referred to as nighttime or sleep bruxism.



Although grinding your teeth while sleeping causes many more problems, no matter when it happens, grinding your teeth can be incredibly damaging to the teeth and the jaw, and is known to lead to other health conditions such headaches, migraines, and jaw disorders such as TMJ or temperomandibular joint disorder. 

It can also cause the teeth to become ground down, chip, crack, or break. Other problems it can lead to include increased tooth sensitivity due to the enamel being worn down and the inner layers of the tooth exposed, constant earaches, jaw aches and pains, and other forms of chronic facial pain. 

This is why it is so important to get the problem looked at if you have been told you grind your teeth, as failure to do so could cause many other issues.

How is Bruxism Diagnosed?

The problem with diagnosing bruxism lies in the statement above, specifically "if you have been told you grind your teeth." Most teeth grinding occurs during the night, and the people who do so are usually unaware of the fact that they even have this problem. 

That is, of course, unless they happen to sleep next to the same person night after night. If you've ever slept next to someone who grinds their teeth, then you know the sound is unmistakable. Still, not all people who grind their teeth will experience the negative effects of it, especially if it only rarely happens or they don't do it too vigorously.

bruxismNonetheless, if someone tells you that you grind your teeth while sleeping, you should make an appointment to see your dentist to see what can be done about it. The first step is to visit a dentist, but they may likely recommend you to see a jaw specialist or possibly an orthodontist for treatment if it is necessary.

Speaking of the dentist, it is actually dentists who most often diagnose this condition, as continuous grinding of the teeth will soon lead to changes in the teeth and jaws that will be very apparent to any dentist. 

 

This means the main problem with diagnosis is that it is usually impossible until it begins to cause permanent damage to the teeth, i.e. they begin to show signs of being worn down. This makes it even more important to get it looked at the very first time you are told about your nighttime teeth grinding.

 

Causes of Bruxism

One of the major problems with this disorder is that even most experts don't fully understand what causes it, as the problem could be related to a wide variety of mental and physical problems. Still, there are certain things which are thought to at least contribute to this condition.

  • Stress. Anything which causes a person to feel stressed, anxious, or tense can definitely contribute to the condition. It is also thought to be a result of constantly holding in one's feelings and emotions.
  • Having an aggressive or hyperactive personality. Research has shown that individuals with overly competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive personality types are much more likely to develop this condition.
  • Improperly aligned upper and lower jaws. Having an improperly aligned jaw causes many problems with the muscles in the jaw, which can in turn lead to increased clenching or grinding.
  • Can be a side effect of certain drugs and prescription medication. Teeth grinding is a side effect of certain psychological medications, although not a very common one.
  • The condition is much more common in children, and it typically goes away on its own as they age.
Treatment Options For Bruxism

bruxism1The majority of people who grind their teeth do so quite infrequently and do not need any form of treatment. However, some people may begin to grind and gnash their teeth night after night or violently, and in these cases, the person may need to seek help. This help usually involves the use of some form of mouth guard or other oral dental device that is designed to help protect the teeth.

Many people find relief by using a simple mouth guard that can be purchased in most online stores. We personally recommend the Plackers Mouth Guard. These disposable mouth guards come in packs of 14, 24 or 34 and last about three nights each. Alternatively, you could have a mouth guard especially designed for you by your dentist, but these devices are much more expensive. 

No matter which type you use, a mouth guard will not actually stop you from grinding your teeth, but it will nonetheless prevent your teeth from being damaged by the grinding.

The other main form of treatment is the use of a splint or a retainer to help realign the jaw and hopefully reduce the clenching. These splints will need to be specially made to perfectly fit your mouth, and are useful in cases where improper jaw alignment is thought to be the main factor causing you to grind your teeth or clench your jaw.

bruxismOne last option that more people are turning to is Botox. Injecting small amounts of botulism toxin into the jaw area will weaken the muscles and usually decreases the condition. Plus it also helps reduce wrinkles, so it’s a win-win situation for some.

Still, while these options should help, many people also focus on treating their symptoms and causes themselves, especially those resulting from tight or overworked jaw muscles. Many people have some success with focusing on keeping their mouth unclenched, while others report that massaging their jaw, neck, and face several times a day does enough to keep their muscles relaxed that it stops the teeth grinding and clinching. 

One last method is to try and minimize your daily stress, or use a meditation or relaxation technique to help fully relax your body and eliminate stress before going to sleep.


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