The medical term for teeth grinding is ‘Bruxism’. This is a Greek word which literally means ‘gnash the teeth’.
The exact reason behind this condition is unknown but there are two types:
- Nocturnal (while sleeping)
- Awake bruxism (during wakefulness)
Awake bruxism is more common than nocturnal. Also, awake bruxism is more common in women than in men.
Bruxism is a widespread condition affecting 8 to 31% of the population worldwide. Its incidence decreases with age.
Most times, this occurs when you cannot manage stress efficiently or if you have issues dealing with your emotions. The symptom is not present during sleep, it appears and increases in severity as the day proceeds. Some symptoms associated with it include:
- pain in the jaw
- temporal headache
- stiffness in the angle of mouth
- tooth pain
When this habit is not checked, damage to the crown of the teeth takes place. The teeth may get loose and get very sensitive. Some people may develop clicking of the temporomandibular joint (angle of the mouth) and a locked jaw (trismus).
This is more difficult to identify. You will notice the symptoms in awake bruxism after you wake up.
Additional symptoms of teeth grinding, like disrupted sleep quality and daytime sleepiness may be present. Loved ones sleeping next to someone with bruxism may notice the sound of grinding and mention it.
Is teeth grinding a problem?
Teeth grinding can be harmful because it can lead to the wearing off of the teeth surface.
The enamel and dentin (outer surfaces of the tooth) wear off due to repeated rubbing. In severe cases, it can lead to sensitive, loose and damaged teeth.
5-10% of teeth grinding population actually face some teeth damage that requires medical intervention.
Other conditions like cheek biting, lip biting, nail-biting, and sleep disorders are commonly associated with it.
What are the causes of teeth grinding?
- Stress – Most common cause of daytime bruxism.
- Sleep Disorders – Obstructive sleep apnea due to enlarged adenoids, talking and violent movements while sleeping, hallucinations, Restless leg syndrome, Periodic limb movement disorder, snoring, REM behavior disorder may be accompanied by teeth grinding.
- Psychoactive Substances – Intake of Antidepressants, ecstasy, cocaine, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol are seen to be associated with teeth grinding.
- Personality Type – People with aggressive and hysterical behavior tend to have a higher incidence of teeth grinding. These people may be hyperactive, emotionally unstable or excessively competitive.
- Genetic – Familial predisposition have been attributed to this condition though there is little evidence to support it.
- Associated Disorders – Parkinson disease, Dementia, GERD, Epilepsy, Night tremors, ADHD, Sleep Apnea, Obesity, Nutritional deficiencies, Pinworm, Dehydration, Autism, and Cerebral Palsy have been linked with teeth grinding
How to get rid of teeth grinding?
Conscious efforts and willpower can help you get rid of teeth grinding effectively. It is an activity that denotes some sort of stress or tension in the body.
The best way to get rid off it is to release that tension. Here are some solutions to stop teeth grinding.
1. Relaxation Techniques
Yoga and exercising release Endorphins that create a positive calm balance in the body. Meditation is also found to be effective in loosening out the general tense feeling.
Simple breathing exercises are a good accompaniment to activate your brain to consciously remove the habit.
Relax your shoulders and neck well. Exercises such as putting tongue between your teeth, leaving your mouth slightly open for about 30 seconds before sleeping or in the time of anxiety eliminates the stress from the jaw muscles.
2. Avoid Jaw Tension
Avoid chewing gums and hard chewy food. You don’t want to lower the threshold for your muscles to fire up and start grinding. Do not chew on pencil backs and pen caps.
Mouthguards are devices like Splints and Mandibular Advancement Devices which create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth reducing the friction and equalizing the pressure across your jaw.
They are the first line treatment for bruxism. They are also useful for treating sleep apnea disorders. The treatment lasts for about 6 months. They are usually made up of rubber and plastic.
4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a non-invasive and simple approach that is best effective along with using mouth guards. It is required if the symptoms are severe enough to disrupt daily activities.
It aims at identifying and changing distorted behavior patterns and develop strategies to eliminate Bruxism. Self-monitoring, chart recording can lead to an insight into that behavior. Exercises invoke improvement when followed along with CBT.
5. Approach a Dentist
Self-therapy isn’t the best for this condition, it’s always best to approach a dentist.
He/She will help you with CBT, mouth guards, evaluate the underlying cause and may even prescribe muscle relaxants like Diazepam.
Every individual is different, and what works for one person may not work for the other. This is why seeking professional help is important.
Dr. Charles-Davies OA is the founder of 25Doctors.com, about sharing health information in a simple manner, allowing you to understand your body and health easily.