Sleep Bruxism – Grinding Teeth During Sleep

04/07/2012

Sleep bruxism is the term that is used to describe the grinding or clenching of teeth while asleep. These can both be associated with a number of different other problems, so it is best to have this condition checked by a doctor or dentist as soon as it is identified.

The clenching or grinding of teeth can occur while the individual is asleep overnight, or even during naps that are taken during the day. It usually involves a side-to-side motion of the incisors and canine teeth, which can gradually file down the enamel of the tooth, flattening the edges of the teeth and removing the sharper biting surfaces. It is also possible for the molars to be clenched or ground.

It is believed that sleep bruxism is caused by one or a combination of the following:

  • Emotional stress or anxiety
  • Lack of teeth symmetry (also called occlusal disharmony, where the bite of the teeth does not sit properly on one another.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Digestive issues
  • Or even a drug side effect, such as amphetamine-based medications like MDMA.

There are several types of steps that can be taken to prevent or treat sleep bruxism. While some are simply a matter of lifestyle changes or home remedies, others require the assistance of your doctor. They include the following:

  • Reduce your stress levels – this is especially important before bed. Exercise every day and have a calming routine before bedtime, such as taking a bath, or listening to soothing music. Professional counseling can help if the stress levels are unmanageable alone.
  • Avoid substances that stimulate – this is especially important in the second half of the day. This includes caffeine (such as in coffee or tea), highly sugared foods and beverages, but also smoking and alcohol, which are known to aggravate sleep bruxism.
  • Talk to your sleeping partner – if you have a sleep partner, ask him or her to listen for any clicking or grinding sounds while you are asleep if he or she happens to be awake. He or she can then tell you if it occurred while you were asleep.
  • Have regular dental checkups – this is one of the best ways to screen for sleep bruxism, especially for people who don’t have a sleep partner or who live alone. Regular examinations can allow a dentist to spot indications of the condition. If misaligned teeth are the problem, they can be repaired.
  • Mouth guards – if it is severe enough, a mouth guard or dental splint can be purchased through a dentist to help to protect the teeth.

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