Do you ever wake up from a night's sleep with sore teeth and jaws? You could be grinding your teeth. Grinding your teeth is known as bruxism. This rhythmic clenching of the jaws and grinding of the teeth may develop at any age. Teeth grinding is usually done unconsciously in your sleep, but it can also occur when you are awake. During the day, a person who is concentrating on a task will often place his teeth together and apply force through a contraction of the jaw muscles. This is commonly associated with the daytime tasks of lifting heavy objects, driving, reading and writing. During sleep, it presents as clenching and rhythmic contractions.
According to research, physical symptoms of bruxism include, inadequate opening of the mouth, stiffness and tightness of the shoulders, ear ache, muscle pain also known as facial myalgia, discomfort on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and headache.
Stress, anxiety, sleep disorders, suppresed anger, frustration or malocclusion are all possible causes of teeth grinding. There is, however, little evidence to directly support any cause. Research has shown that bruxism is found more frequently in people who snore or suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and in people whose lifestyle includes smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine.
How can you stop clenching or grinding your teeth? It depends on the cause. Is it due to a sleep disorder, lifestyle factors or stress and anxiety? It is important to have your dentist evaluate you with a comprehensive exam and develop a treatment plan that is specialized for you.
The best way to protect your teeth and prevent tooth wear and fracture is to wear an occlusal appliance. These appliances have different names, including occlusal splints, occlusal bite guards, night guards, bite plates and bruxism appliances. These are custom made, specially fitted plastic mouth pieces that fit over your top or bottom teeth. Wearing one of these appliances will reduce jaw muscle pain and protect both your teeth and temporomandibular joint. The appliances are usually worn at bedtime and are considered the treatment of choice.
Even though there have been lots of treatments recommended for stopping teeth grinding in past years, the only verified treatments for this condition are occlusal splints and mandibular advancement devices. These are custom made, specially fitted appliances and usually fit over your top and bottom teeth. Mandibular advancement devices typically bring your bottom jaw (mandible) forward. Occlusal splints refer to tiny mouth guards made from plastic which can be used immediately without the need for a specialist to fit them. These devices are used when a sleep disorder is a probable cause of grinding and they have been found to safeguard the teeth from premature wear, minimize the clenching noise of teeth and activity of jaw muscle. The device is used to help manage snoring and sleep apnea. When grinding your teeth is caused by sleep apnea, this is the preferred treatment.
If anxiety or stress is believed to be the cause of your grinding, then behavioural management is a must. Relaxation techniques, meditation and psychoanalysis can help manage the stress and anxiety. Hypnosis has also been found to help relieve grinding of your teeth.
There is no cure for teeth grinding, however, it is manageable. By exercising to strengthen the jaws and using a customized night guard, bruxers can minimize symptoms and prevent major dental work.
Putting an end to the clenching or grinding of your teeth requires an evaluation by your dentist or by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. After an exam, a treatment plan can be implemented. It may include an occlusal appliance and, possibly, behavioural modification methods.