While we’re all aware of the detrimental effects that sugary food and drinks can have on our teeth, not many people realise that they could be damaging their teeth while they sleep. Jaw clenching and teeth grinding known as bruxism can cause just as much damage to our teeth during the day or at night while we sleep. In this blog, we’ll look at what causes bruxism and how it can be treated.
Causes of bruxism
Stress is one of the most common causes of bruxism which causes teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Bruxism can occur during the day when placed in stressful situations but can also manifest itself at night when we sleep. Anxiety is another cause of teeth grinding and jaw clenching and like stress-related bruxism, most people are unaware that they are doing it.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation or are feeling anxious pay attention to what is happening in your mouth. Are you clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth around? Around 8% of the population are affected by Bruxism so there is a good chance that you are doing this subconsciously and are not really aware of it.
As well as stress and anxiety there are other risk factors that can lead to bruxism which include substance abuse, sleep apnoea, and issues with teeth alignment and bite. These can all make bruxism more likely, especially in adults.
Symptoms of bruxism
If you wake up in the morning with a sore mouth or a tight jaw, then these could be warning signs that you have been clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth in the night. Another indication of bruxism is uneven tooth wear, usually focused around the back molars.
For those who share a bed with a partner, they may notice that you are grinding your teeth at night, as the sound is unlikely to wake you up but could be loud enough for your partner to notice. Long-term jaw clenching and teeth grinding can cause earaches and headaches akin to an ear infection or a migraine.
Treatment of bruxism
If you think that you may be suffering from bruxism, then it’s important to visit your dentist. They will be able to examine your teeth and jaw for signs of grinding or clenching. Once diagnosed your dentist will normally prescribe a mouth guard to help prevent your teeth from grinding while you sleep and give you something to bite on if you clench your jaw. This means that you should wake up feeling refreshed from your night’s sleep and should not have any pain or a tight jaw.
Of course, a mouth guard only goes part of the way to treating bruxism as it does not address the underlying problem. If your teeth grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, then a therapist could help to create long-term change while a sleep specialist will be able to test for issues like sleep apnoea.
Like most issues related to your mouth if you notice anything unusual, suddenly have pain or soreness then it is best to visit your dentist as they will be able to identify the cause of the problem. Most problems are easy to treat if spotted early so the sooner you visit the dentist, the better the outcome will generally be.