When you’re angry or stressed, you might clench your teeth as a natural response. Bruxism can manifest both while awake and asleep. If you have a habit of clenching your teeth during your sleep, you have sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep disorder and may be indicative of another sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Sleep bruxism can be a greater problem than awake bruxism since people are not aware of their teeth clenching and will apply more force than when they are awake.
Sleep bruxism manifests distinctly in different people. Most people don’t clench their teeth the entire time they are sleeping, rather they clench and unclench them for periods of time throughout the night. Many notice unexplained pain in their jaw, mouth, or neck, or damage to their teeth. They may also wake up with a headache or earache. People with sleep bruxism might also suffer from poor sleep if they continually wake up from the noise of their grinding. There are some people with sleep bruxism who don’t display symptoms and are never aware of their condition. However, they may find out about their condition from a partner.
What causes it?
It’s difficult to to point to any one factor that causes sleep bruxism; however, there are many individual components that can lead to it. Environmental risk factors such as stress, changes in sleep patterns, medications, smoking, alcohol, drinking caffeinated beverages, using recreational drugs, and other medical conditions can increase the likelihood of sleep bruxism. Individuals with aggressive and compulsive personalities are also more prone to suffer from bruxism. Furthermore, age can affect the chances of developing bruxism. Younger children commonly grind their teeth at night and grow out of it. Bruxism can also run in families.
Since stress is the leading cause of both awake and sleep bruxism, engaging in anxiety-reducing activities can prevent teeth grinding as well. Visiting a psychotherapist helps patients learn coping mechanisms and teaches them how to manage their stress. Relaxing activities such as reading, journaling, meditation, and yoga can bring down stress as well. Having a regular routine before bed will prepare your body for sleep. It can help transition you from a state of tension to one of serenity. Sleep should refresh your body and mind to be ready for the day ahead. Try experimenting to see what works for you.
In addition to reducing stress, there are other techniques to manage sleep bruxism. Mouthpieces placed in the mouth before sleep will reduce damage to the teeth and mouth. They can be custom designed by a dentist or bought over-the-counter. To reduce the pain caused by sleep bruxism, some patients may cut out gum and hard foods from their diet. Others will find relief by performing facial exercises recommended by their doctor or another health professional. For temporary relief, patients can place a cold pack or hot compress on their jaw or mouth.
If you’re still suffering because of sleep bruxism, there are medications that can prevent muscle movement during sleep. Before considering a drug or injection option, speak with your doctor, as many of these medications have challenging side effects and may cause more harm than help.