Bruxism or teeth grinding affects 85 to 90 percent of people during their sleep. 1 Only about 5 percent of those are chronic teeth grinders. Most infants and children grind their teeth when they first come in during teething and when adult teeth come in. 2 Most people are unaware they are engaging in teeth grinding until they are informed by their sleep partner.
Signs of teeth grinding include a dull consistent headache the following morning and jaw or gum soreness. Teeth grinding typically does not disturb the grinder’s sleep, but can be very disruptive to the sleep partner.
Teeth grinding is most likely stress related and, therefore, can be remedied by decreasing stress. This can be done through medication, increasing exercise and getting more sleep. In some cases, teeth grinding is brought on as a side effect from other medication. In such instances, medication should be changed according to your doctor’s orders.
Teeth grinding has the potential to cause serious dental problems such as fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth. Extreme cases of chronic teeth grinding can result in damage to the jaw affecting hearing or even changing the shape of the face. Grinding can wear the teeth down resulting in the need for expensive dental procedures needed to fix the problem. 3
Treatment for teeth grinding is limited but effective. Dentists can fit the mouth for a soft plastic mouth guard to prevent damaging the teeth. Mouth guards may become dislodged over time or increase the severity of teeth grinding in some individuals. Splints are similar to mouth guards, but much thinner, harder and more expensive. The reason for teeth grinding may also be crooked teeth, in which case braces and other teeth alignment treatments may correct the problem. 2
Other factors can help prevent teeth grinding such as:
- Reduce caffeinated beverage and alcohol intake as they tend to increase the severity of teeth grinding. 3
- Avoid chewing gum as it gets the jaw used to clenching as a natural motion. 3
- Relax the jaw before bed by holding a warm washcloth to your check in front of the earlobe. 3
- Train yourself to not clench your teeth. If you find yourself grinding or clenching during the day, place the tip of the tongue in between your teeth in order to train the jaw to relax. 3
1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
2. Mayo Clinic—Bruxism/Teeth Grinding: Treatments and drugs; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bruxism/ds00337/dsection=treatments-and-drugs
3. WebMD—Teeth Grinding (Bruxism); http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-grinding-bruxism