Feeling stressed at work? Having a hard time concentrating? Are you waking up with jaw pain? If you answered yes to any of these, chances are you are grinding your teeth during your sleep. Grinding of the teeth or bruxism, is literally the unintentional biting and/or clenching of the top and bottom teeth with forceful jaw movement.
STRESS IS THE ENEMY
For a while, it was unclear as to why people grind their teeth, but now it is believed that stress is the number one culprit, but sleep patterns as well as a genetic disposition or gender can cause the condition. Interestingly enough, woman are three times more likely to grind their teeth than men and generally targets people between 20 – 40. A chronic grinder, or someone who has been doing it since childhood actually does less harm to their jaw and teeth as their muscles are stronger than those who grind occasionally.
Most people who grind their teeth may not even notice it right away, unless they have a sleeping partner they’ve been keeping up at night with the noise. Your dentist can easily assess whether you suffer from teeth grinding by the condition of your teeth- flat teeth at any age is a good indication you’re a grinder.
Chronic grinding can lead to many ailments including headaches, earaches, jaw pain and displacement, facial pain and teeth sensitivity. Clenching can be even more serious as it can cause degeneration of the jaw joint. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent and correct grinding of the teeth.
A great place to start is talking to your dentist. He or she will be able to take an impression of your teeth and make you an acrylic mouth guard to wear while sleeping. At first, wearing the guard will feel a little uncomfortable, but once you get used to it, you won’t even notice it’s there. Keep in mind that the guard may not keep you from the actual act of grinding, but it will prevent any further tooth damage and any jaw or ear pain will lessen significantly.
RELIEF IS EASY
Another great tactic to try is keeping your lips sealed, but your teeth apart. Try it throughout the day, being conscious of your teeth placement and not allowing them to touch, even when your mouth is closed. If the jaws are relaxed more regularly they won’t be as keen to tighten up during sleep. Just being aware and reminding yourself of teeth clenching or tensing of the jaw can help prevent nighttime grinding.
Exercise is by far a great way to relieve stress, and especially stress related teeth grinding. When the body exerts itself, the muscles in our body and face relax as well as the mind. A walk or any other mild form of exercise can lighten the tension from chronic grinding.
Other preventative tactics would be taking a warm bath before bedtime, applying warm moist heat to the jaw area, facial massage and even avoidance of certain foods like hard bread, popcorn, steak and even ice.
Knowing what causes teeth grinding and clenching is half the battle to winning the war and regaining a proper night’s sleep.
A freelance writer, Wendy Kellison learned about bruxism from Dr. Lori Lemire, DMD, a dentist in Coos Bay, OR.