Updated: 29 May 2023, 11:33 am IST
Bruxism is a medical term used to describe a condition in which a person grinds, clinches, or gnashes their teeth. It often occurs involuntarily during sleep, known as sleep bruxism. But it can also happen while awake, known as awake bruxism. While occasional teeth grinding may not cause significant harm, chronic bruxism can lead to dental problems and discomfort including tooth wear, jaw pain, headache, and disturbed sleep. So, how to prevent grinding teeth? Well, fortunately, there are several preventive measures and strategies that can help individuals mitigate the effects of teeth grinding.
Health Shots spoke to Dr Nirali Patel, a Dental Surgeon, Oral Implantologist (Fellow of ICOI, USA), and Cosmetic Dentist (Certified Digital Smile Designer, Spain), who listed some possible causes and treatments of bruxism or teeth grinding.
Causes of grinding teeth
People grind their teeth for a variety of reasons. While anxiety and stress can lead to teeth grinding, these factors are less common than an abnormal bite, missing or misaligned teeth, or an aberrant bite while you are asleep. One of the causes of teeth grinding might potentially be a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Dr Rupani says, “The innocuous practice of grinding one’s teeth is uncommon. But if you grind your teeth frequently, you can damage your teeth. Finding the root of the problem is the first step in treating teeth grinding.” The following are typical reasons for tooth grinding:
- Stressed and anxiety
- Unbalanced or errant bite
- Damaged, misaligned, or missing teeth
- Issues with sleep, including sleep apnea and insomnia
- Medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics
- Diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s
- Excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking
Symptoms of teeth grinding
In some circumstances, the only way to tell if you grind your teeth at night is to look for bruxism symptoms. Keep an eye out for these indicators:
- Chronic dull headache
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- You create a grinding noise when you sleep, which others can hear
- Significant tooth wear
- Teeth sensitivity
- Disturbed sleep
- Facial pain
- Gum recession
- Indentation on the tongue
Does teeth grinding affect one’s health?
Some people who grind their teeth regularly may develop cracks, weakening or tooth loss. Teeth might develop scars from frequent grinding. In these circumstances, it may be necessary to use partial or full dentures, bridges, crowns, implants, and root canal therapy. While grinding your teeth can damage them and cause tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws and change the way your face looks.
How to stop teeth grinding (bruxism)?
These are a few tips that can help you stop grinding your teeth:
1. Avoid caffeine
Avoid stimulating substances such as coffee, chocolate and other caffeinated foods and drinks. These foods can increase the likelihood of teeth grinding. So, avoid them totally or eat them in moderation.
2. Steer clear of alcohol
Limit your consumption of alcohol and tobacco because after the consumption of these two things, grinding usually gets more severe.
3. Avoid chewing on non-food items
The likelihood that you may grind your teeth increases if you chew on pens, pencils, and other non-food things. Be conscious of such habits and to divert your mind you can chew sugar-free gum or chew toys designed for stress relief. It will help to train your jaw muscles to tighten.
4. Wear a mouthguard
If you frequently grind your teeth, wearing a mouthguard or splint while sleeping can provide a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth, preventing further damage and reducing the impact of grinding.
5. Jaw and facial muscles exercises
Practising exercises that help relax your jaw and facial muscles can reduce the tendency to grind your teeth. Some simple exercises include gently massaging the jaw muscles, applying warm compresses to the jaw area, and practising jaw stretches and relaxation techniques recommended by a dentist or physical therapist.
6. Stress management
Stress is one of the factors behind bruxism. Engaging in stress-reducing techniques such as exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and hobbies that you enjoy can help you overcome this condition. You can also consult a dentist or doctor about stress-relieving techniques if you grind your teeth out of frustration.
7. Relaxation techniques
Create a relaxing routine during the day, and especially before bed to help prepare your body for deep sleep. Avoid using mobile phones or watching TV, instead take a warm bath, listen to soothing music or read a book to keep yourself calm and relaxed. Some other relaxation therapies for teeth grinding include having treatment for muscle relaxants, starting an exercise regimen, getting counselling for stress, and contacting a physical therapist.
Bruxism is the term for teeth-clenching and grinding. It can happen any time, during the day or night. Sleep bruxism may worsen conditions because you aren’t aware that you are doing it. If neglected, teeth grinding can harm your teeth, jaw joints, facial muscles, and teeth. So, it’s better to consult a doctor for timely treatment. Also, implement these strategies to reduce the impact of bruxism and protect your teeth.