Clenching and grinding your teeth while sleeping doesn’t just cause your bed partner to request you sleep on the couch, it could also be responsible for causing headaches, jaw pain and wearing down your teeth.
Clinically referred to as nocturnal bruxism, teeth-grinding occurs as a response to your teeth not quite fitting correctly, according to the American Dental Association. If for whatever reason your teeth don’t fit together smoothly, or if the position your teeth fit the best doesn’t match where your jaw muscles feel the most relaxed, the body attempts to correct the interference by wearing teeth down. If left untreated, your body will eventually win this nightly tug-of-war as the jaw has plenty enough grinding power to break fillings, split teeth or crack teeth.
Causes of Bruxism
To receive an official bruxism diagnosis, you need to audibly grind your teeth for at least three nights a week, for at least three months, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Just because your nightly problem goes away doesn’t mean it’s gone for good, either. The condition and come and go throughout your entire lifetime, and generally starts during childhood. Which means unlike some allergies, you won’t simply outgrow the condition during adulthood. As bruxism persists, it can cause frequent headaches, the wearing down of teeth, tooth pain, loose teeth and tooth sensitivity.
Stress is also known to aggravate cases of bruxism. When you feel stressed, you gain pent up energy that somehow needs an outlet for release. For some people, the way that energy gets released comes in the form of muscle contractions, especially of the jaw muscles as they sleep at night. Since everybody deals with stress differently, not everyone will develop a problem with teeth-grinding just because they have a stressful day.
Not all cases of bruxism have the same cause. For some individuals, the condition could be the result of a bite problem, while others may start grinding because of a joint issue. Similarly, the condition can also be brought on by a change in sleeping position or sleeping style. This helps to underscore why it’s so important to talk with Dr. da Costa about identifying what’s behind your bruxism.
According to the ADA, something as routine as bumping your chin or biting down too hard on an olive pit can lead to a very slight adjustment to your bite, which in turn could trigger teeth-grinding. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help reduce how frequently you may experience bruxism.
Reducing Your Risk
For some individuals, drinking alcohol and caffeine can make their bouts with bruxism worse, so cutting back or reducing the amount you consume of either beverage may help to reduce the severity and frequency of the condition. Drinking caffeine, especially shortly before bedtime, can worsen the condition, as it can cause jaw muscles to tighten while you sleep.
Dr. da Costa can also create a custom made mouth guard for patients to wear while they sleep. While wearing a mouth guard at night won’t help you stop grinding, it will protect your teeth. Instead of your grinding wearing down the health of your teeth, the mouth guard will take the punishment.