Teeth grinding is a common condition that affects nearly 10 percent of all adults. Involuntary teeth clenching or grinding is a habit that typically occurs when you’re sleeping, and it can be medically defined as bruxism.
What is bruxism?
There are a few different ways to classify bruxism based on whether it happens while the person is awake or asleep and if the habit consists of grinding or clenching. Clenching is a more common reaction in day bruxism and is usually stress or anxiety-related whereas grinding is likely to occur during sleep.
Sleep bruxism is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder and close to 20 percent of all children 11 and younger have experienced sleep bruxism in some form. Fortunately, the prevalence of the condition has shown to lessen as kids grow up.
Teeth grinding can lead to serious oral health complications if left untreated. Those who suspect they might be grinding or clenching at night should check for these teeth grinding symptoms and try out a few prevention tips.
Teeth Grinding Causes
No one is exactly certain what triggers bruxism, but there are several causes dentists believe are correlated with the condition. Some of these teeth grinding causes include:
• Sleep disorders
• Sleep apnea
• Abnormal bite
• Repetitive strain
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, abusing substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs has a strong correlation with bruxism episodes. These users are about twice as likely to develop teeth grinding habits than non-users are.
Some researchers believe dental work that adjusts the jaw or teeth positioning can lead to teeth grinding habits later in life. Although dentists have yet to pinpoint the cause of bruxism, the above factors have shown to increase the risk of grinding or clenching. That said, anyone is susceptible to teeth grinding from the elderly to young children but several factors can increase your likelihood of developing these habits.
Some of these risk factors include personality type, having family members with bruxism, age, other disorders like ADHD or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), Parkinson’s, and more. GERD seems to have an unfortunate correlation with sleep apnea. Naturally, this gives these patients a higher chance of developing teeth grinding.
Teeth Grinding Symptoms
Most symptoms caused by teeth grinding happen directly to the teeth, but in some cases, your gums, jaw, and head may suffer too. Common teeth grinding symptoms usually include:
• Dull headaches
• Jaw soreness
• Sore or loose teeth
• Crooked teeth
• Notches or indentation on gum line
• Gum recession
• Worn tooth enamel
More serious complications can range from tension headaches and severe facial or jaw pain to fractured or missing teeth. Teeth grinding can also result in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders that result in clicking when you chew or open and close your mouth. This happens when the bone structure of your jaw joint is damaged by the tension.
Teeth grinding can wear down the enamel on your teeth. Once the enamel has deteriorated, it is easier for oral complications to develop and teeth grinding symptoms will worsen quickly.
How to stop teeth grinding:
Teeth grinding prevention tips and treatment vary depending on when the grinding is occurring and how severe the habit is. For sleep bruxism, a mouthguard can be fitted by your dentist to protect the teeth and jaw at night.
If the grinding is stress or anxiety related, find some form of stress management through meditation, yoga, art, or another physical relaxation technique. In more serious cases your physician may even prescribe a muscle relaxer to take before bed. For more tips to stop teeth grinding, try the following:
• Custom fit mouthguard
• Stress and anxiety management
• Diet modifications
• Botox injections
• Prescribed medication
• Touch your tongue between your teeth
• Avoid other oral habits and fixations (nail biting, lip biting, etc.)
• Postural modifications
• Tooth adjustments
Although mouthguards and other prevention methods can keep future teeth grinding symptoms from worsening, they won’t reverse any effects from past grinding. Cosmetic dental work can help straighten out a crooked bite and reverse tooth flattening or shortening.
There are natural treatments for bruxism too. The use of aromatherapy is a popular approach to treat bruxism symptoms and urges. The best essential oils for teeth grinding include lavender, roman chamomile, ylang-ylang, juniper berry, and peppermint.
Some common properties found in these oils lower heart rate and blood pressure, are anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain relieving), antispasmodic, induce sleep, strengthen blood vessels, or prevent nerve damage.
Essential oils can’t replace a mouthguard but will help alleviate pain and tension. If you notice teeth grinding or clenching habits develop in your child voice concern to the dentist but know that most kids grow out of these habits by the time they reach adolescence.
Babies who are teeth grinding should always have an airway evaluation to be sure the symptoms aren’t caused by a developmental issue. Teeth grinding in children and babies usually isn’t caused by stress like in most adults. Children who grind their teeth are probably reacting to allergies, misaligned teeth, or another irritation in the mouth.
Determining if your child has bruxism is not always simple because it’s rare that they recognize the habit. Sometimes the grinding is so severe that it’s noticeable when they sleep but any complaint of discomfort while chewing or in the jaw can be an obvious indicator too.
With the help of your dentist, treatment is possible. Sit down and discuss the causes of bruxism and possible treatment before severe tooth damage, jaw disorders, or headaches take place.