Night-Time Teeth Grinding. What is it and What can be Done About it?

Why do I grind my teeth in my sleep?

Grinding, gnashing or clenching your teeth when you sleep is called sleep bruxism.  You may not be aware that you do it, so symptoms are:

  • Worn down, flattened or chipped teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Increased sensitivity of the teeth
  • Your bed partner or roommate complains that the noise wakens them
  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw tiredness
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Chronic facial pain
  • Damage to the tongue or inside of the cheek from chewing.

Some of these symptoms may be picked up by your dentist but you should see your doctor/dentist if you suspect you have sleep bruxism.

Bruxism is caused by any of a number of problems including anxiety and stress, suppressed anger, competitive personality type, incorrect alignment of the upper and lower jaws, as part of another disease process such as Huntington’s Chorea or Parkinson’s Disease, or as a side effect of some antidepressant meds.

Some people are more at risk of bruxism than others.  People who take stimulating substances such as methamphetamine or ecstasy (’E’) or even caffeine, tobacco or alcohol can increase their risk of bruxism.

In most cases it doesn’t cause too much harm but if you’re experiencing the symptoms above and you feel they need to be treated then your doctor or dentist may recommend an appropriate solution, depending on the cause of the problem:

  • Stress management
  • Behaviour therapy
  • Mouth guards or splints to prevent tooth damage
  • Correcting misaligned teeth
  • Avoiding stimulating substances, especially in the evening.
  • Medications aren’t generally affective unless they are the cause of the problem, in which case a change of meds could help.

Elspeth Raisbeck

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