Many people grind their teeth, whether they know it or not. Though you may not notice it during your sleep, the symptoms and after-effects can be very destructive. In addition to being bad for your dental health, teeth grinding can also cause discomfort and sleep disruptions. So what exactly causes this phenomenon and how can it be stopped?
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism, colloquially called ‘teeth grinding’ occurs as a result of clenching the jaw. Although it most typically occurs during sleep, it can also present when people are awake and conscious. While commonly viewed as merely a nervous habit, Bruxism can have serious consequences if left untreated. It often turns habitual, causing extensive damage to the teeth and oral health. People who suffer from this affliction are prone to developing Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ).
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to grinding one’s teeth. Stress and anxiety are certainly the main causes, but sleep disorders can also play a largely causal role. Additionally, the anatomy and physiology of the mouth and jaw can make quite a large impact. Having missing or crooked teeth or having an abnormal bite are equally likely to cause a person to develop bruxism. Smokers and people who excessively consume alcohol have also been found to be nearly twice as likely to develop this habit.
The most common symptoms include:
-soreness of the jaw
-loose, fractured, or painful teeth
Genetics: Do They Play a Role?
Evidence strongly indicates that this practice is genetic. Teeth grinding tends to run in families. Increased hormone levels in family members has been shown to be a trend in those affected by it. Variations to certain genes as well as morphisms in neurotransmitters (particularly where serotonin is concerned) in the brain have also been shown to be both hereditarily passed down, as well as common occurrences in people who report grinding their teeth.
Treatment and How to Stop It
The easiest yet most effective solution to the problem of habitual teeth grinding is to pay a visit to your dentist. He or she will be able to discuss options with you, but typically the first step in treating the habit and its negative effects is to design a custom-made mouthguard. Wearing one of these, typically while sleeping, has been shown to significantly reduce teeth grinding.
In more severe cases or for increased comfort while becoming accustomed to the oral apparatus, the dentist or physician may advise you to take a muscle relaxant tablet before bedtime. The muscle relaxant will aid you in becoming comfortable wearing the mouthguard. This is especially useful for those whose symptoms are the result of stress. Counseling, meditation, and other relaxation techniques are other holistic remedies that you can take up on your own.
If you are suffering from Bruxism, schedule an appointment to come see us today. Here at Dana Walters DDS we specialize in bruxism treatment and prevention and will help stop this bad habit in no time.