The Nitty Gritty on Nighttime Teeth Grinding

NIghttime Teeth Grinding

Are you bearing the brunt of bruxism? If you’re unfamiliar with this technical term, you likely know it more commonly as teeth grinding. Bruxism encompasses Involuntary grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. You can do it unconsciously during the day or at night while you sleep. For now, let’s focus on the nighttime version of this condition.

If you’re grinding your teeth at night, you might not even know it until your dentists spots the telltale signs. Or your bedmate gives you a poke in the ribs to encourage you to cut the nocturnal noise. Besides disturbing your partner, bedtime bruxism can cause:

  • Disrupted sleep

  • Fractures or chips in your teeth

  • Loosened teeth

  • Worn enamel

  • Pain in your jaw or neck

  • Headaches

  • Tooth pain or increased sensitivity

Common causes

While there has been a lot of research and discussion on this topic, there’s still no clear consensus on the underlying cause(s) of nighttime teeth grinding. It’s been linked to alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use, but in general the prevailing wisdom seems to indicate a wide range of potential causes, most notably stress. Still others are certain that it’s an instinctual response to interrupted breathing during sleep.

Treating the symptoms

If your dentist detects signs of bruxism, you’ll likely end up with a prescription for a mouth guard to prevent any further damage to your teeth. But while this may help treat the symptoms, it won’t get at the underlying issue. And some posit that it will actually make any nighttime breathing problems worse.

Eliminating the problem

Since there’s such a variance in terms of the root cause, recommendations for eliminating the problem versus simply mitigating the symptoms are similarly hard to nail down. Here are a few approaches you can take:

  • Do a sleep study - If the cause is obstructed breathing, then you’ll want to make sure you zero in on the exact cause of the obstruction and the right treatment for your particular case

  • Examine your sources of stress - Whether it’s work, school, or your relationships, if something is causing you to stress out, you’ll need to work through that issue, or find a helpful outlet like exercise

  • Boost your intake of key vitamins - A deficiency in vitamin C, magnesium or B vitamins can make it harder to manage anxiety and stress, so be sure to eat a nutrient-dense diet or add a multivitamin to your daily routine

Getting to the bottom of teeth grinding will do more than just minimize the potential damage to your teeth; it can help put your mind at ease and make you feel more well rested. See your dentist if you suspect you’re grinding your teeth, then take the steps outlined here to get at the root cause. Your teeth, and your overall sense of well being, will be that much better for it.

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