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23 May 2024

Teeth Grinding at Night: Causes, Consequences, Advanced Treatments

Teeth grinding is an involuntary act that can cause you to clench and gnash your teeth. Teeth grinding at night, also termed sleep bruxism, can often go unnoticed, but the severity of the force can damage your teeth and impact your jaw health.

Treatments for teeth grinding at night are geared toward the individual and the causes of their bruxism. Such treatments are overseen by a doctor or dentist.

Symptoms of Sleep Bruxism

Teeth grinding is more common among children and younger adults. However, anyone can experience bruxism, and recognizing the symptoms provides the chance of an early diagnosis before more severe complications develop. Symptoms include:

  • grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth
  • morning headaches
  • worn tooth enamel or tooth damage
  • tooth sensitivity
  • jaw pain
  • neck or shoulder pain
  • disruption to sleep

What Are the Causes of Teeth Grinding at Night?

While younger age groups are more likely to grind their teeth, several other risk factors can lead to sleep bruxism. These include:

  • Stress – a major risk factor, stress, anxiety and anger can trigger episodes of sleep bruxism.
  • Lifestyle – smoking, recreational drugs, and alcohol and caffeine consumption have been linked to teeth grinding.
  • Genetics – a family history of teeth grinding increases your risk.
  • Medications – certain medications including antidepressants like Prozac and Paroxetine may be risk factors and dosage should be discussed with your doctor.
  • Health conditions – certain medical conditions including stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) as well as the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea can lead to teeth grinding.
  • Personality traits – the risk of bruxism can increase for someone with a competitive, aggressive, or generally tense personality.

The Consequences of Teeth Grinding

The consequences of teeth grinding at night will depend on the severity of the condition. One of the primary long-term effects of sleep bruxism is the damage it can do to your teeth which can be significant when teeth grinding is severe.

Teeth can become cracked or broken. The enamel can be worn down, placing you at an increased risk of cavities, tooth decay, and potentially tooth loss. Previous work carried out by your dentist such as fillings and crowns may also be in jeopardy.

It is not just your teeth that are at risk from sleep bruxism. Facial and jaw pain can be quite severe, and you could suffer from migraines. Issues may arise with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) which connects the jaw to the skull. As well as jaw pain, this can cause problems chewing, as well as popping, clicking, or even locking of the jaw.

In particularly severe instances, damage to the bone could require a jaw hinge replacement. However, as mentioned earlier, the severity of any impact depends on the severity of the teeth grinding, and not everyone will have such severe long-term impacts.

Treating Sleep Bruxism

Worn teeth can be a sign to your dentist that you grind your teeth, something you may not realize. Your doctor may also see the signs or appreciate you are at increased risk due to a family history of the condition.

If stress is a trigger, your healthcare provider will work with you on ways to reduce stress and identify stressful situations in your life — so you can avoid them the best you can. Meditation, yoga and reading can help reduce stress levels.

A physical solution is a mouthguard worn at night to keep the upper and lower rows of teeth apart. While this does not address the root cause of your bruxism, a mouthguard protects the teeth against the long-term damage the condition can inflict.

Advanced Treatment Methods

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a talk therapy that can help reduce stress by addressing negative thoughts. By looking at issues more positively you can reduce stress and anxiety to help promote better sleep and reduce episodes of teeth grinding at night.

2. Sleep Hygiene

Better sleep can lead to a reduction in teeth grinding. Therefore, optimizing your chances for better sleep through good sleep hygiene is beneficial. This can include ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet and has a comfortable temperature. Reduce screen time leading up to bed and avoid alcohol and caffeine.

3. Medication

Sedatives or anti-anxiety medication aimed at reducing stress may be recommended. It is important to consult your healthcare provider whether such medication is suitable for you as they are not considered for long-term use and may have side effects.

4. Botox

A Botox injection will relax jaw muscles and may offer improvement to those who suffer from severe sleep bruxism. A low-dose injection is used, with the effect lasting for several months.

5. Contingent Electrical Stimulation (CES)

CES employs low-level electrical stimulation to help relax the muscles in the mouth and jaw when they become active during a teeth grinding episode. Research suggests CES may reduce the level of jaw movement associated with sleep bruxism.

6. Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy may help some people combat teeth grinding at night by suggesting positive thoughts and assertions before they go to bed. Visiting a hypnotherapist or using audio tracks may also help by working at an unconscious level as you sleep just as teeth grinding is an unconscious effort. Studies indicate that hypnotherapy can reduce bruxism, but it will not be a suitable treatment alternative for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Teeth grinding at night may be less common than daytime bruxism, but unless spotted by a sleep partner you may not know you have the condition. Regular appointments with your dentist is key as, alongside your doctor, they can spot signs such as worn tooth enamel – and help with treatment for bruxism.

Treating underlying conditions can be the first step to reducing teeth grinding. Several advanced treatments may help tackle the condition to prevent long-term damage to your teeth and jaw pain. If you recognise the symptoms of bruxism you should arrange an appointment with your dentist or doctor for an assessment.

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