Bruxism: Teeth Grinding

Man teeth grinding

Deena loves her husband very much, yet she simply cannot sleep with him. Something he does during the night has forced her to sleep in the guest room more times than she can count. You are probably thinking he snores, but you are wrong! Yet what he does is just as disturbing to her sleep; he grinds his teeth! The sound of him gnashing his teeth as he sleeps is horrible, yet he seems totally unaware he does it. That is, until he wakes up with a headache and sore jaw. 

What Causes People to Grind Their Teeth?

Teeth grinding is called bruxism. Some of the most common contributing factors of grinding teeth tend to be psychological in nature, with anger or stress being the prominent ones. People who are stressed, angry, or anxious tend to grit, clench, or grind their teeth unconsciously and intermittently, especially while sleeping. People who often suppress their anger or frustration can also show signs of the condition during the day by clenching or grinding their teeth in frustration.

Malocclusion, the misalignment of upper and lower teeth, can also cause this condition. When there is something wrong with the teeth alignment, it is very natural for one to grind the upper teeth against the lower teeth. There are also some diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington disease which have been known to cause the condition. Some folks who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea have also been known to have bruxism.

Bruxism in Children

One of the causes of teeth grinding in children might be improper teeth alignment, especially when the teeth are still developing. Additionally, some children have been known to respond to pain by grinding their teeth. And just like adults, some children grind their teeth due to stress or suppressed anger. If your child is grinding her teeth, it may be a good time to discuss anything that may be bothering her. She may have a fear, or a stressful situation that needs to be addressed with the help of an adult. In any case, a trip to the dentist is in order.

Conditions Bruxism Can Cause

Consistent teeth grinding can cause serious damage to the teeth themselves. By grinding off the protective enamel, people who suffer from bruxism are more prone to tooth decay. Over time the tooth integrity can become severely compromised. Some folks have actually broken or cracked their teeth from grinding them so hard.

Bruxism can also lead to headaches and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. Since it is a flexible joint, it allows free upward and downward movement which enables us to talk, chew, and yawn. When this area, or the facial muscles around this area, is affected by stress, excessive clenching of teeth, injury, etc., pain and discomfort may result.

Treatment for Bruxism

If you believe you might be grinding your teeth at night or find that you do it during the day, make an appointment with your dentist. People who suffer from bruxism may be advised by their dentist to wear a mouth guard or dental splint to avoid teeth damage. Your dentist would make a mold of your teeth to have a night guard custom-made for your mouth. Wearing the guard while you sleep will protect your teeth so no more damage can be inflicted. Your dentist may also recommend you be seen by an orthodontist if he suspects your bruxism is caused by misaligned teeth.

Other than dental approaches to address your teeth grinding, it is also important to address the underlying factors which may be causing you to grind your teeth. This might include a stress management class, a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea, or counseling to address other emotional triggers.

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