Teeth grinding at night is a common occurrence, just one we don’t always realise we are doing because it happens in our sleep. While occasionally grinding our teeth is often not harmful, habitual teeth grinding can lead to tooth damage.
Here are some of the signs to look out for to determine if you’re one of the millions who grind their teeth at night.
What is night grinding?
Night grinding is simply the act of grinding your teeth at night. It is also medically known as bruxism. It is quite common, with around 10 % of adults affected and 15% of children. It is also something that can be genetic, so if your parents grind their teeth, there is a good chance you do too.
It is relatively harmless unless done excessively, which can cause jaw pain and can even lead to tooth damage, including the loosening, fracturing or loss of teeth. If this happens then anything from crowns to full dentures may be needed.
Why does it happen?
It is said that stress and anxiety can be the biggest culprits of teeth grinding. A study has shown that 70% of people who grind their teeth do so out of stress and anxiety, and this may be down to a stressful work life. Smoking, caffeine and alcohol consumption can also possibly lead to night grinding. Sleep apnea may also be a cause of teeth grinding as studies have shown that with the treatment of the disorder, night grinding also decreased.
What are the signs of night grinding?
People who grind their teeth are much more likely to suffer from headaches, which makes it the most common symptom in night grinding. They may also experience jaw pain (or TMJ discomfort) as well as other muscle aches, facial muscle enlargement and neck and shoulder stiffness. The pain may also travel up to the ear and cause many earaches.
A huge sign of teeth grinding is noticeable wear on the teeth themselves and possible fracturing or tooth loss. You can inspect your teeth in the mirror and look and feel for flatness, especially in the molars.
If you suspect that you may be grinding your teeth at night, then a dental care treatment plan may be needed. Your dentist will be able to have a look to determine if that is indeed what is occurring and advise as to the best treatment for your case.
One way of ensuring the teeth do not continue to grind is with a mouth guard, also known as an occlusal appliance, bite guard or night plate. They are custom made plastic trays for a comfortable fit over your top and bottom teeth whilst asleep. This will not only help stop damage to the teeth but also the jaw pain.
A mandibular advancement device may also be recommended, especially if sleep apnea is a cause. This is another custom fit device to fit over the top and bottom teeth. It will even help with snoring!
In addition to treatment from your dentist, if stress, anxiety or a sleep disorder is the suspected cause, then it is worth seeing a doctor for additional help in managing these.
If you think you are experiencing night grinding or other dental issues, JC Dental are here to provide advice on if and what treatments are best for your needs.
Contact our office to see what we can do for you and your family.