Many people grind their teeth at night for a variety of reasons including stress, bite problems and sleep apnoea. This article is dedicated to help people who suffer from teeth grinding (or Bruxism) at night. Bruxism can result in excessive tooth wear, this can affect not only how you look but also how your teeth function. Over time, this loss of functionality can result in jaw joint pain which can even cause headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain or back pain.
Why do I grind my teeth?
Teeth grinding usually happens during sleep, it has a wide variety of causes but mostly this includes a combination of stress and/or an abnormal bite between your top and bottom teeth. Crooked teeth can cause the muscles in your face and jaw to be put under tension during the day; at night these muscles have a tendency to overwork, causing the teeth grinding.
Other medical conditions such as sleep disorders or sleep apnoea can also cause teeth grinding.
What are the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding?
It can sometimes be difficult to know yourself if you are grinding your teeth; however, if you have a partner that sleeps with you they may often be woken by the noise. Your dentist will also be able to tell if you grind your teeth regularly. Your teeth have natural high points, known as cusps, if you grind your teeth these cusps will gradually wear flat as the enamel gets worn away by the constant grinding. In the early stages of this you may not be fully aware yourself but regular visits to the dentist will ensure that they spot this early on.
You may also find that you get headaches from grinding your teeth. If the muscles around your jaw are working excessively at night then this can cause headaches. This is because the muscles that you use to eat, known as the muscles of mastication, link very high up in your forehead.
The link between sleep apnoea and teeth grinding
As well as night bruxism, it’s also important to recognise some of the increased risks which may be associated with this problem. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is one such risk. This is where the tongue, soft tissues and soft palate relax so much at night that the airway becomes completely restricted. At its very least this results in snoring, at its very worst the airway becomes completely blocked! Treatment for this goes beyond splint therapy and into the realms of hospital treatment and possibly having to have a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device worn at night whilst you sleep.
Sleep apnoea can be a potentially serious condition, it is caused when the muscles around the throat relax at night, these block the airway and interrupt the breathing pattern. Obstructive sleep apnoea is when this obstruction become so severe that they stop breathing. A sleep clinic is often used to fully diagnose sleep apnoea.
The link between this condition and teeth grinding is not necessarily connected, however, a link does seem to exist as nearly 1 in 4 people with obstructive sleep apnoea also grind their teeth at night.
Research has shown that treatment with a CPAP not only stops breathing complications but also relieves the teeth grinding.
If you grind your teeth and find you are continuously tired, and wake up with a very dry mouth or sore throat continuously then you might like to investigate if you have sleep apnoea.
How to stop grinding teeth naturally
In order to know how to stop grinding your teeth at night naturally it’s necessary for you to identify the cause.
If you are stressed, try to identify the cause of the stress and then look for ways to relax. Often turning off mobile devices before bed, having a bedtime routine including a warm, relaxing drink, dimming the lights and generally getting quieter towards bedtime can help us relax and sleep better. If the stress is more intense and immediately identifiable then look for ways to reduce it if possible.
You may also like to consider a teeth grinding guard, (Splints) Michigan/Tanner these can really help the muscles in the head, face and neck relax at night and therefore stop the grinding.
Teeth grinding mouthguards
A mouthguard is a device which fits over your teeth, very much like a small sports guard or teeth whitening tray. the mouth guards are made from a clear material and have a smooth outer surface, this prevents your teeth from meeting, which prevents the cusps on the teeth from interlocking. Because the cusps can’t interlock, the muscles are unable to find their normal daily position, this means the muscles then completely relax. This relaxation of the muscles prevents the teeth grinding and can also help to release pressure and therefore reduce the likelihood of headaches.