Do you ever drift in and out of a half-asleep, half-awake sort of twilight zone, where you feel some sort of tension in your face and hear a strange grinding noise…where you’re somewhat wondering what’s going on but you’re not quite “awake” enough to make any sense of it? Or maybe your partner occasionally shakes you to wake you just to tell you to stop grinding your teeth because you’ve awoken them for the 25th time that night?
The medical term for teeth grinding is “Bruxism”, and it can happen when you’re awake as well as when you’re asleep (Sleep Bruxism). An article by the National Sleep Foundation states that 8% of adults grind their teeth at night and more than one-third of parents report symptoms of Bruxism in their children. The article also states that “Occasional bruxism may not be harmful but when it occurs regularly, it may be associated with moderate to severe dental damage, facial pain, and disturbed sleep.”
What Causes Bruxism?
The causes of Bruxism are uncertain at best. However, many studies have been completed which show vulnerability consistencies across varying groups. Researchers believe that a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors all play a role.
Awake Bruxism could be a symptom of a bigger problem like anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension. People may subconsciously clench their teeth as a coping strategy in uncomfortable situations or it could be a mild habit that helps people cope during deep concentration.
Sleep Bruxism is a little bit different. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may be a sleep-related chewing activity that is associated with arousals during sleep. The causes are not well-defined but they have compiled a long list of risk factors that could contribute to the onset of Bruxism, which we’ll outline below.
Risk Factors for Bruxism
Similarly to clenching your fists, clenching your jaw signifies tension in your body. It comes as no surprise that stress is a leading factor contributing to the onset of Bruxism.
For those affected, as stress ebbs and flows, so too does the prevalence of Bruxism. If you’re waking yourself up in the night from grinding your teeth, or your partner is shouting at you through the twilight zone of a deep sleep, you need to check yourself. Are you feeling stressed?
Stress itself deserves a whole other blog post, but it’s important to mention that if your stress levels are escalating, you need to do something to release the tension. We’ve tracked down this really great article here that you should read to help you become aware of your stress and take action to remove the cortisol from your bloodstream before it causes more serious health implications.
A few additional risk factors for Bruxism include age, personality type, medications and other substances, genetics and other disorders, which we’ll outline in more detail below.
We were surprised to find out that the incidence of Bruxism occurs more frequently in children and usually dissipates by the time people reach adulthood.
Having a more “intense” personality may help you with business affairs and getting your way more often than not, however it may not necessarily be healthy for your Bruxism symptoms. Research indicates that having an aggressive, competitive and hyperactive personality type can increase your risk of Bruxism.
Medications and other Substances
Drugs, alcohol and prescription medications may all play a role in the incidence of Bruxism. Drugs affect our bodies in more ways than we may realize. Psychiatric medications including certain antidepressants, tobacco, caffeine and alcohol as well as recreational drugs have been shown to increase the risk of Bruxism.
Unfortunately for some of us, Bruxism runs in families. You can blame it on your genes!
Mental health issues and medical disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD), Epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as Sleep Apnea and Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been associated with Bruxism.
What are the Implications of Teeth Grinding?
Although Bruxism has not been linked to any serious complications, severe cases may lead to a wide range of unwanted results.
First and foremost, we personally think the most detrimental effect of Bruxism is disturbed sleep. Disturbed sleep in itself can single-handedly cause a multitude of issues which include mental, physical and emotional-regulation issues that impact your quality of life. Tension-type headaches can also result, as well as earaches, jaw pain and damaged teeth.
What Can You Do About Teeth Grinding?
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to fight back against Bruxism. We’ve done some research and developed this non-exhaustive list of possible remedies you can play with to see what personally helps you.
As we mentioned above, stress can contribute to the onset of Bruxism. Along with a multitude of other mental and physical health problems that could result from stress, Bruxism is no different. Think about what helps you feel a sense of peace and calm in your life, and do that. Many people experience feelings of relaxation when listening to music, hanging out with family and friends, taking a warm bath and especially exercising. When stress levels go down, so too will the incidence of your intrusive jaw-clenching habit.
Avoid Stimulating Substances in the Evening
This tip, although unfortunate for us caffeine lovers, is a no brainer. If you consume caffeinated beverages (or alcohol) too late in the evening, your sleep will be compromised as a result.
Practice Good Sleep Habits
Think about what works for you, but let science help. Research shows that people sleep better in bedrooms where there are no lights (yes, even the little flashing lights you find on alarm clocks, wifi boxes, etc.). It’s also been proven that the blue light from your smart devices trick your brain into thinking that it’s daylight. Put your smart devices away an hour before bed to let your body know that it’s time to settle into the evening and as a result, your body will slowly drift into a deep slumber with little interference from your disruptive habit.
Many people see Invisalign as a purely cosmetic treatment but it can help with Bruxism too. Having a misaligned bite can cause uneven pressure on the biting surfaces of your teeth. The uneven pressure that results from this misalignment prevents your teeth from fitting together in a cohesive manner, thus irritating the temporomandibular joint, which is responsible for the movement of your jaw. Furthermore, the treatment period of Invisalign itself can protect teeth from grinding together and damaging tooth enamel.