Do you wake you with aching teeth or stiffness in your temples and face? Ever considered the possibility that you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep? Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, usually happens when you’re asleep though, sometimes, people do it when they’re awake too. It’s estimated that around 5% of the population suffers from this condition.1 Bruxism can not only be painful but also strain your jaw joint, wear down your teeth, or cause tooth enamel to chip. So, when does this happen?
1. Anxiety And Stress
Being anxious or stressed can make you grind your teeth or clench your jaw. According to research, about 70% of cases of teeth grinding that occurs during sleep is caused by anxiety and stress, which has a subconscious effect while you’re asleep.2
What to do: Relaxation therapies like breathing techniques and meditation may help you deal with anxiety and stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a talk therapy that focusses on identifying unhelpful thoughts and behavioral patterns and changing them, can also be useful.3
2. An Aggressive Or Oversensitive Personality Type
According to research, a person’s personality type may be linked to teeth grinding. People who have a markedly negative emotional response to any loss, frustration, or threat and are more self-critical and sensitive to criticism are likely to do this. It may also affect people with overly aggressive, competitive, or hurried personalities.4 5
What to do: If some parts of your personality, say the manner in which you cope with stress, are bogging you down, you can take measures to deal with it. Self-help books about your particular concern can be useful. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help.6 7 Meanwhile, using a mouth guard can help stop dental damage due to teeth grinding.8
3. Sleep Disorders
Teeth grinding is associated with behaviors exhibited during sleep like mumbling, talking, kicking, or punching while you’re asleep. It’s also linked to sleep paralysis – a condition where you find that you’re temporarily unable to move while you’re falling asleep or waking up. Sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping, can also be to blame.
What to do: Sleep apnea can be treated by using a breathing device, surgery, and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and losing weight.9 Following certain healthy sleep habits may also help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Keep to a regular sleep schedule – go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine especially close to bedtime. It also helps to avoid having a huge meal late at night.
- Remove distractions like bright lights, a TV, or computer from your bedroom.
- Wind down at night with a relaxing bath, soothing music, or a book.10
4. Intestinal Parasites
Studies have found that people infected with intestinal parasites engage in teeth grinding.11 The main kinds of parasites that infect your intestines are helminths like pinworms, tapeworms, and roundworms and protozoa such as cryptosporidium and giardia. These parasites usually worm their way in when you come in contact with infected fecal matter that is present in contaminated food, soil, or water.12
Parasites can reside in your intestines for long periods without causing any symptoms. When you do experience symptoms, they may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, itching or rash around your anus, weight loss, and fatigue. If the teeth grinding is recent and if you also have some of these symptoms as well, it’s time to see a doctor.
What to do: Your doctor may carry out tests such as a fecal test and recommend appropriate medication.
Teeth grinding can occur as a side effect of some medications, including certain antipsychotics and antidepressants.
What to do: Check with your doctor if find out if any medication that you’re on can cause this side effect. Your doctor may also recommend alternative medication if appropriate.
6. Lifestyle Factors
Some lifestyle factors like having excessive alcohol, using recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy, smoking can also up the chances of your grinding teeth. So can drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea – say 6 cups or more a day.
What to do: Limit your consumption of alcohol or caffeinated drinks. You would also need to avoid smoking or the use of recreational drugs to rein in the problem.
7. Improper Teeth Alignment
An improper alignment of your teeth, for instance, caused by a tooth filling that’s too high, can make you grind your teeth.
What to do: Along with teeth grinding, if you feel discomfort or pain or have any other teeth-related problems, visit your dentist. They will be able to correct any dental misalignments.13
Your baby may grind her teeth when she’s teething.14
What to do: This is a temporary phase that’ll pass. But giving your baby a warm cuddle, gently massaging her gums with your finger, or giving her something cold (say, cold carrot sticks) to chew on can help soothe your baby during this period.15
Your Doubts Answered
1. How Can I Stop My Child From Grinding Her Teeth?
[expert_opinion expertname=’stevenlin’ opinion=”Teeth grinding is usually a sign of a breathing problem when sleeping. It’s the brain pushing the jaw forward to open the airway. Helping your child to breathe through their nose through the day, can help them to breathe well at night. Use a nasal rinse at night before bed to help nostril potency. Check for swollen adenoids and tonsils, which may be related to food allergies. Another potential cause is a digestive parasite, which can be investigated if teeth grinding doesn’t resolve.”]
2. Can You Sleep With A Mouth Guard?
[expert_opinion expertname=’stevenlin’ opinion=”A mouth guard prevents damage to the teeth, however, it does not address the CAUSE of teeth grinding. You should always investigate the cause of grinding, as it is most often a breathing and airway issue.”]
|↑1||Teeth grinding. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑2||Teeth grinding (bruxism) – Causes. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Self-help treatments for generalised anxiety disorder. National Health Service.|
|↑4||Sutin, Angelina R., Antonio Terracciano, Luigi Ferrucci, and Paul T. Costa. “Teeth grinding: Is Emotional Stability related to bruxism?.” Journal of research in personality 44, no. 3 (2010): 402-405.|
|↑5, ↑8||Bruxism. Massachusetts General Hospital.|
|↑6||Self-help therapies. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Self-help treatments for generalised anxiety disorder . National Health Service.|
|↑9||Obstructive sleep apnoea – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|↑10||Healthy Sleep. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑11||Tehrani, Maryam Haje Norouzali, Nader Pestechian, Hoseinali Yousefi, Hajar Sekhavati, and Hajar Attarzadeh. “The correlation between intestinal parasitic infections and bruxism among 3-6 year-old children in Isfahan.” Dental research journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 51.|
|↑12||Intestinal parasites. University of Maryland.|
|↑13, ↑14||Treatment Of Bruxism (Teeth Grinding). Ministry of Health Malaysia.|
|↑15||Your Infant is Teething: Know the Signs and Symptoms. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.|