You just woke up, but instead of feeling refreshed and invigorated, your jaw feels sore and you have a pounding headache. Waking up with symptoms like these can be due to grinding your teeth in your sleep. Grinding teeth, which is medically known as bruxism, involves grinding, gnashing, and clenching of your teeth while sleeping.
On average, bruxism is more common in children, but individuals of all ages can suffer from grinding their teeth at night. When this occurs regularly, the side effects can become detrimental. Due to consistent grinding, teeth can become loose, wear down, and even fracture or fall out. Dental intervention may become necessary if the damage is excessive.
What Causes Grinding Teeth in Your Sleep?
There are a few different things that could be the culprit:
Teeth Issues: Most of the time, grinding is caused by issues like an abnormal bite or crooked teeth. In children, specifically, most of the time their grinding is due to irregular contact between their upper and lower teeth.
Life Issues: When there is a lot of stress in your life, your body suffers. One stress-related issue is anxiety and tension, which causes you to hold your jaw much tighter. This encourages the act of grinding.
Medical Issues: Other times, teeth grinding is due to medical issues or medications. Diseases such as Parkinson's Disease or having sleep disorders like sleep apnea contribute to grinding. Also, while not extremely common, some medications like those for psychiatric conditions can contribute to grinding your teeth in your sleep.
What Steps Can I Take to Stop?
The first step you should take is to figure out what is causing you to grind your teeth at night. Setting up an appointment with your dentist is a good starting point. Your dentist will be able to examine your mouth thoroughly and alert you to any damage you may have or issues that could be contributing to bruxism.
Your dentist can also custom-fit either a mouth guard or a retainer. Both will help prevent grinding and offer protection. If you use one, be sure to keep it clean and sanitized — especially if it's rubber. EverSmile offers products designed to clean mouthpieces even while you're on-the-go. SportsFresh kills bacteria and eliminates biofilm that builds up on sports guards and night guards, and the portable spray is designed for travel. Using SportFresh before putting your night guard in your mouth will also gently whiten your teeth.
If your nightly teeth grinding is not due to a tooth abnormality or issue, you can then try the following:
Reduce stress: Make your bedroom a calming space and not a place where you work. If necessary, reach out for help through therapy or counseling.
Massage your jaw and face: Performing a simple massage or even using warm rags on your jaw area can help relax the muscles.
Make dietary changes: Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and refrain from chewy foods or chewing on non-foods such as gum.
Try a mandibular advancement device: These are designed specifically for those suffering from sleep apnea.
Consider alternative remedies: Physical therapy, tapping, and acupuncture have all been used to prevent the intensity and prevalence of sleep grinding.
Don't let teeth grinding ruin your night or day. Take the steps to figure out what is causing it, and you're already well underway to getting a better night's sleep, less pain and a better smile!