Why Do Some Of Us Grind Our Teeth At Night?
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a habit that can destroy even the healthiest teeth.
It is quite common for people to clench or even grind their teeth a little when they are facing an anxious moment.
This is usually very short lived though, and as we are awake, rarely excessive enough to do any real damage to our teeth.
When we are asleep however, we do not have the same awareness to know when to stop or how hard we are grinding our teeth before they experience some damage.
It is this night time grinding, also commonly known as bruxism, that is particularly destructive to our teeth. Under extreme duress it can even cause teeth to shatter, especially if already weakened through previous decay and fillings.
Why do we grind our teeth?
Some medical conditions such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease can cause this to happen. Most cases that we see at The Dental Centre Bedford though, are most likely caused by underlying stress and anxiety. Like patients across the country, our Bedford patients are likely to suffer some of the same anxieties in their life over work, relationships and perhaps money worries too. Although we may put on a brave face about this during the day, when our subconscious takes over at night when asleep, this is likely to come to the surface and manifest itself in restless sleep and, sometimes, in teeth grinding.
The effects of grinding our teeth at night can range from relatively mild damage such as enamel wear, to broken and fractured teeth. Wearing of the enamel is more likely to be seen in patients who have uneven or crooked teeth, leading to more contact between the teeth than in those with even ones.
What are the symptoms?
The most obvious symptom of bruxism is damage to our teeth. Where the teeth break or fracture, this is likely to be immediately noticeable, and possibly very painful too. Much damage is less immediate though and enamel wear is a common example of this. We may not even notice this until we feel an increased sensitivity when we eat or drink hot or cold food or drinks.
We may also find that we suffer from jaw problems such as TMJ and notice that our jaw muscles feel sore or that our jaws feel locked when we wake up.
How can you stop this tooth damaging habit?
As we are usually asleep when we grind our teeth to an extent that is likely to cause damage, it isn’t just a matter of simply determining to break the habit. The only procedural way to help this is to have a mouthguard made which you wear at night to stop your teeth grinding together. This can help to prevent at least some of the damage but doesn’t really address the cause of the problem.
As this is usually related to stress, it is in this area that we really need to look.
We can perhaps start to address anxiety levels in our life by writing down all the things that happen in our lives that cause us to feel anxious. By writing these down, it may be possible to identify some changes that we can make. If our work is making us anxious or overly stressed, for example, we may want to consider if it is worth staying in our current job. Of course, some situations which cause us anxiety may be more or less unavoidable and we should then look at how we can reduce our stress levels, especially before sleep.
Different things will work for different people, but the following suggestions are generally useful.
Take up exercise. Exercise helps us to forget our stress for a while and also enables our bodies to take in more oxygen. Exercise will also help you to sleep. Start with a gentle walk if you haven’t done any exercise for a while and always consult your GP if you have any concerns.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime. Both of these are stimulants that may affect your sleep pattern and lead to a restless night.
Meditate and try to relax more. Simple meditation techniques may help you to relax and this is often best done early in the evening. You don’t have to be religious to practice this and there are plenty of meditation ideas available online.
Turn off your TV and phone. We don’t mean that our local Bedford patients should do this all the time, but turning off the TV and not checking your phone, say half an hour before you go to bed, is likely to put you in a more relaxed frame of mind.
Although we can perform restorative dental treatment to ‘mend’ your teeth, if you continue to grind them, this is likely to be only temporary and further treatment is likely. The best approach is to overcome the problem and then confer with our dental team about the best ways to permanently restore your teeth to a functional and attractive state. The treatment needed will depend on the damage caused, but is likely to include some or all of, veneers, crowns and dental implants.
Teeth grinding is unpleasant and very damaging to your teeth, but you can be sure that, once you have overcome it, our experienced team at The Dental Centre Bedford will be here to help you restore your teeth. Appointments to see a dentist can be made by calling us on 01234 819868.