Bruxism: Teeth Grinding

Sufferers of teeth grinding or bruxism may be unaware of the condition until they are affected by some of the symptoms. It mainly happens during sleep, although it can occur during the day. It can accompany all sleep stages but is most common in stages 1 and 2 of non-REM Sleep.

The jaw naturally contracts during sleep, keeping the mouth and jaw stable. During episodes of teeth grinding the jaw moves and the teeth grind together. This may disturb sleep and occasionally cause a full awakening. Many people are unaware that their sleep has been affected. Partners or parents may be alerted to the condition before the sufferer experiences any problems.

Teeth grinding may happen during a stressful time, or be constant and repetitive lasting into adulthood. It is more common in children and decreases with age. It affects both men and women.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

There are a number of possible causes:

  • Stress and Anxiety – Personality type has been associated with teeth grinding. The highly motivated Type A personality – driven and motivated – often suffers from muscular tension finding it difficult to switch off. Periods of stress and anxiety can also cause tension and affect sleep and cause the condition.
  • Medication and Stimulants – Cigarettes and caffeine can increase the problem. It can also be a side effect of prescriptive and non prescriptive drugs including antidepressants.
  • Other Conditions – Teeth grinding is often found in children suffering from Cerebral Palsy or Mental Retardation. It can also be a complication of Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of teeth grinding mainly relate to wear of the teeth and muscular pain in the jaw. Sufferers may experience pain in the teeth and gums and damaged teeth due to the constant grinding. They may also experience headaches, earache and pain in the jaw, neck and shoulders. Soreness in the mouth may be the result of chewing the sides of the mouth, and teeth may become sensitive and painful.

See a Dentist

The condition is often recognised by a dentist during routine check-ups. The dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard during the night to protect teeth. This is best fitted professionally to ensure it stays in place during sleep.

Other symptoms, such as headaches and pain in the jaw, can be helped by learning how to reduce tension and relax. Sufferers are advised to learn how to recognise the build up of tension in the neck and face. Simple relaxation exercises concentrating on the jaw and shoulders help ease the affected areas. Relaxation techniques and breathing exercises help to relieve anxiety and tension. Yoga and stretching exercises help reduce tension and can help relieve pain and discomfort in the neck and shoulders. Relaxing the jaw and releasing the tongue onto the lower palate helps reduce tension in the mouth.

Cognitive behavioural therapy and Stress reduction helps with the underlying problems that may be causing the tension. Many sufferers suffer bouts of teeth grinding during periods of stress. By learning how to recognise how daytime concerns can affect sleep, they are encouraged to find ways of adjusting behaviour to help prevent damage to the body and mind.

Although sufferers may not be aware of any problems related to sleep, adopting good sleep hygiene and eliminating caffeine, alcohol and heavy Exercise Before Bedtime will help the body and mind relax and encourage a peaceful night’s sleep.