Bruxism or grinding your teeth during the night is something that many people do in response to stress, though they may not even necessarily be aware of it. If you wake up regularly in the morning feeling like you haven’t gotten much sleep, with achy teeth or an achy jaw, or if you experience migraines and headaches – then tooth grinding may just be to blame.
Obviously none of these symptoms are particularly desirable, and as you might imagine it’s not a great habit for your teeth either and can even lead to arthritis in the jaw and gum disease. But how do you stop doing something that you have no conscious control over? Here we will look at some suggestions to help you tackle the problem.
Who Grinds Their Teeth and Why?
Stress is thought to be the main contributing factor in grinding (or ‘bruxism’ as it’s also known), but that’s not the whole story. Actually teeth grinding is also related to gender – with women being three times more likely to grind their teeth compared to men, and may be a result of unusual sleep patterns. The problem is most common between the ages of 20 and 40, and it’s also thought to be hereditary.
If you suspect you may suffer from bruxism, and if any of these risk factors apply to you, then you should ask a partner if they notice you making noise in your sleep (it can sound like squeaking or even crunching as though they’re eating cereal), try recording yourself, or visit a doctor or dentist. The latter is recommended in any case.
If you grind your teeth then there are a few options available to help you prevent the issue. Here are some things to try…
Wear a Night Guard: This is one of the most successful solutions when it comes to protecting your teeth and should prevent most cases of bruxism. You will need to consult with a dentist first to ensure that you don’t have any cavities or wobbly teeth that could be affected by a guard.
Practice: The habits we have during the day can often influence our behavior during the night. If you spend all day squinting at a computer, furrowing your brow and biting your pencil, then you shouldn’t be surprised if that tension carries over into the night. Try practicing relaxing your mouth with your teeth slightly apart and your muscles relaxed whenever you remember, and then hang onto that feeling. Do this particularly as you drift off to bed.
Take a Warm Bath: A warm bath will help to relax your muscles and this includes your facial muscles. Likewise a glass of warm milk or even a mild sleeping medication may accomplish similar results – but consult with your doctor first and don’t rely too much on medication for your sleep. Massaging your jaw before bed may also help.
Ask Your Partner: As with snoring, you can ask your partner to gently stir you if they notice that you’re grinding during the night. Alternatively ask them to gently massage your jaw and they may be able to stop you without having to wake you up.
Exercise: Exercising during the day can help you to expend energy and thus help you to relax more at night again. It can also improve muscle control and lead to positive hormone production.
Practice Good Sleeping Habits: If you go to bed at different times every night, have lots of light in the room, and drink tons of caffeine while playing Call of Duty every night before bed, then you should expect all kinds of disturbances during your rest. The better your sleeping habits are the better and deeper your sleep will be and the less likely you will be to grind, snore or have nightmares.
Relieve Stress: As stress is the main cause, it stands to reason that reducing stress should help to eliminate the problem. There are a number of ways you can reduce stress from addressing stressful elements in your life (finding a new job, reducing your responsibilities, paying off debt), to taking more time out to relax (having regular holidays, practicing medication in the evenings and booking days to just recuperate), to finding coping mechanisms that work for you.
If you suspect you are grinding your teeth, contact our office at (602) 242-5445 for a consultation with Dr. Ferguson to learn about the possible treatment options.