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Sleep Bruxism: Are You Harming Your Teeth While You Dream?

Sleep Bruxism: Are You Harming Your Teeth While You Dream?

Sleep bruxism is also known as tooth grinding that typically occurs while people sleep. A common condition such as the grinding or clenching of teeth is a type of movement disorder that occurs during sleep.

If it occurs regularly, it can lead to moderate to severe dental damage, disturbed sleep, and facial pain.

Sleep Bruxism

Two Types of Teeth Grinding

  1. Awake Grinding

Only triggers when a person experiences emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension. However, during deep concentration, it may be a coping strategy or a habit.

  1. Sleep Grinding

Teeth grinding happens whenever people talk or mumble during sleep, behave violently during sleep such as punching or kicking, experience sleep paralysis, and hallucinations.

Signs and Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Loud teeth grinding or clenching
  • Flattened teeth
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Exposed layers of the tooth
  • Increase in tooth sensitivity
  • Tight jaw muscles
  • Locked Jaw
  • Neck pain
  • Face soreness
  • Earache
  • Headaches
  • Hard time chewing
  • Sleep disruption

This movement disorder is not limited to adults. Children tend to grind their teeth as their baby teeth emerge and it also happens when the permanent teeth appear. They grind or clench their improperly aligned upper and lower teeth at night rather than during waking hours. After these two sets of teeth have come in more fully, children are likely to lose the habit of bruxism.

Problems rarely occur when it comes to grinding of the baby teeth, but it can definitely cause fatigue, jaw pain, toothache, and an improper movement of the teeth.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Factors such as stress, anxiety, sleep apnea, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, caffeine, snoring, and fatigue are typical causes of teeth grinding according to doctors.

A combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors affect teeth grinding, and a lot of people are not aware that they do it at night during sleep.

Moreover, this can be a side effect of taking certain types of medication. Medications such as amphetamines are also connected with episodes of clenching.

More causes to be aware of are:

  • Teeth and jaw do not line up correctly, also known as malocclusion
  • Diseases of the nerves
  • The side effect of a few medicines that help treat depression such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Diseases of muscles in the face
  • Huntington and Parkinson’s disease

Short and Long-term Effects of Teeth Grinding

Some effects of clenching disappear as it ceases. Unfortunately, some tend to be semi-permanent or permanent.

Short-term effects start from a dull to an intense headache. Patients also experience aching jaw and facial muscles when they communicate and chew, limiting the opening of the mouth. Tightness and stiffness of the shoulder while sleeping can also occur. Another effect would be receding gums and excess tooth mobility.

Long term effects start from a flattened, chipped, fractured or lose teeth. If sleep bruxism is not treated, it becomes more noticeable as the patient grows older and the pain and discomfort in the jaw continues. The patient will eventually be incapable of opening their mouth to full extent since popping in the jaw will be unavoidable in the long run.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ develops in the long run in serious cases. It causes severe pain in the jaw and in muscles that control the jaw movement as the grinding and clenching get worse. Health issues such as arthritis and connective tissue disease may arise as a result of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

Teeth clenching causes damage leaving deeper layers of the tooth exposed. Over time, bruxism also exposes the enamel as it wears down the teeth resulting in teeth sensitivity.

Prevent and Cure Bruxism

On the bright side, there are numerous treatments for teeth grinding. Use a mouth guard to reduce pain and to prevent further damage while avoiding medications, alcohol, and beverages that contain caffeine. It is best to consult a dentist if a person experiences teeth grinding during sleep. The importance of oral health and dental hygiene keeps our teeth strong as we get older and prevents tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and so on. Our overall health is connected to our oral health and our teeth are one of our greatest assets.