Chronic teeth grinding, also called Bruxism, or clenching your jaw, can cause a series of oral health problems including frequent headaches, TMJ, damaged teeth, and gum recession. Many people are able to control whether they clench their teeth during the day with the help of stress management and other behavioral treatments. But if you grind in your sleep (also called “sleep bruxism”), you may see the negative effects of teeth grinding before you even catch yourself clenching your jaw. If your quality of life is declining because of trouble sleeping, jaw clenching, or frequent headaches, read on for the most effective treatments for sleep bruxism.
How Do I Know I Grind in my Sleep?
Some sleep grinders may not even realize they’re doing it. Sleep bruxism often goes untreated longer than conscious teeth grinding because patients will attribute their headaches or jaw pain to stress, weather pressure, or illness. If you’ve experienced the following signs, you may be at risk for sleep bruxism.
- Pain at your temples, earache-like pain, or increased tooth pain, especially upon waking.
- Teeth that are worn down, chipped, or loose, seemingly without cause.
- Tired or sore jaw and facial muscles, which can lead to headache and pain when opening your mouth or chewing food.
- Waking up frequently throughout the night (sometimes, the sound of your own teeth grinding can actually wake you up)
- Damage to the insides of your cheeks from chewing.
How Do I Treat Sleep Bruxism?
Determining the cause of sleep bruxism is often the first step in treating it. For example, if your grinding is more frequent or severe during very busy weeks or major life changes, you may have stress-related bruxism; if your teeth are misaligned, your jaw may not line up correctly, causing certain teeth to grind together. Once your dentist has assessed the cause, he or she will be able to recommend a tailored treatment plan. Many remedies for bruxism can be used at home.
- Splints or mouthguards: in addition to assigning behavioral treatments like better stress management techniques, your dentist may also recommend wearing a retainer or mouthguard while you sleep to lessen the pressure from your jaws. If you have bruxism related to sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, installing a splint or retainer can hold your face in a better position to prevent air blockages and muscle clenching.
- Dental correction: sometimes, grinding is caused by misaligned teeth or changes in the mouth. Your dentist can assess whether a crown or bridge, braces, or surgery may be required to make your bite more effective and less damaging to your mouth and jaw.
- Relaxation techniques: before bed, take time to shut off your electronic devices and do a few minutes of deep breathing or meditation. Patients who get enough exercise, properly wind down in the evening, and properly manage their stress are much more likely to recover from sleep disorders like bruxism.
- Treating Associated Disorders: many cases of sleep bruxism are comorbid with other mood and sleep disorders, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, or acid reflux. And even if you’re using a mouthguard and practicing relaxation, your body may need a little help. Treating the problem associated with bruxism can in turn lessen grinding and clenching. In severe cases, dentists may prescribe a muscle relaxant or anxiety medication to support your body’s natural processes.
Do you have questions, or think you may be grinding in your sleep? Call TruBlu Dentistry today!