Stress and anxiety factors loom on the minds of millions of working Americans each night around bed time. With the end of the holidays and the start of the new year, high stress and pressures are inevitable.
At night when your head hits the pillow your mind and body are supposed to rejuvenate from the day, but if you’re consistently waking up tired, are always fatigued or are experiencing pain in your head or jaw, sleep bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, could be the main culprit.
Signs and symptoms
Bruxism is a potentially damaging movement disorder where the teeth are clenched or grind against each other throughout the night. While this can happen during the day or night, sleep bruxism is most common. Up to 30 to 40 million people suffer from bruxism annually.
Symptoms can include:
- Headaches especially around the temples where your jaw connects to your skull
- Pain in your mandible, or joints of your jaw
- Damaged, flat, fractured, or chipped teeth and crowns
- Exposed tooth layers from eroded enamel
- Sensitivity in your teeth
- Pain emanating from your ears even when there’s no medial issue
Ongoing, untreated symptoms can cause tooth damage that requires costly crowns and procedures to repair. Untreated bruxism can also cause jaw problems that can have lasting consequences. If you or your partners notice signs of tooth grinding, it is time to make a call to your dentist.
Causes of Bruxism
While an occasional brux (grind) of the teeth may not be especially harmful, it is important to know the root cause of the condition. There are several issues that can contribute to bruxism in adults.
Numerous studies have identified a possible correlation between self-reported feelings of stress and anxiety and tooth grinding. Bruxism can also be the result of other disrupting sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea. A sore tooth or dental illness may also cause this condition.
Alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, abnormal alignment with upper and lower teeth, as well as overstimulation before bed have also been speculated as contributors to this condition.
Bruxism that is related to dental issues will usually resolve with treatment of the dental malady. Likewise, with sleep apnea or snoring, treatment of those conditions may alleviate the issue.
In cases of bruxism caused by stress and anxiety, it is wisest to treat both the psychological sources and the physical ails. Depending on the severity of symptoms of bruxism exhibited, your doctor may recommend several treatment options:
- A bite plate or splint. Your dentist may advise utilizing a night time guard as a defense barrier against grinding.
- Psychosomatic counseling or stress management techniques. In cases of extreme stress, treatment of the psychological conditions is a necessary remedy for treating bruxism.
- Unplug and unwind before bed. Avoid stress-inducing activities, such as reading emails, directly before bed.
- Combat stress and anxiety. Engage in healthy activities that allow you to refocus your mind.
- Talk to your doctor about the course of treatment that is best for you.
Stress management in the form of exercise or meditation is often prescribed to adults as a way to alleviate symptoms and pain associated with sleep bruxism. Among children it is common for the symptoms to disappear on their own without intervention.
In more severe cases, your dentist may suggest a behavior therapy, or exercises which can be used to properly re-align your jaw and teach proper positioning of your mouth.
At home and in your life there are some self-care remedies that could help such as:
- Reducing stress by whatever means you generally relax. Get sufficient exercise during the day, take a long bath before bed, enjoy a cup of warm green tea, listen to soothing music, etc.
- Avoid stimulation during evening hours. This includes drinking caffeinated beverages, consuming alcohol and smoking.
Still, you likely can’t entirely evade sleep bruxism on your own. Talk to your sleep partner so he or she can help you keep track of your nightly habits. Provide this information to your dentist during your regularly scheduled exams, and he or she can help you chart a proper course of action.