Is grinding your teeth while you sleep more serious than you think?

Could grinding your teeth be more serious than you think? [Photo: Lum3n.com via Pexels]
Could grinding your teeth be more serious than you think? [Photo: Lum3n.com via Pexels]

Grinding your teeth while you sleep might not sound like the most serious of life irritations, but did you realise the action of grinding and clenching while you snooze could affect more than just your toothypegs?

According to recent statistics up to six million Britons suffer from bruxism — the official medical term for the condition characterised by teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching – which can range from mildly annoying to seriously damaging. What’s more is that women seem to be suffering the most (Chrissy Teigen recently revealed that she wears a teeth guard to stop her grinding her teeth!)

So what’s causing it?

“Teeth grinding (bruxism) most often occurs while you are sleeping (80% of cases) and it is thought that 70% of these are caused by anxiety or stress,” explains Dr Mervyn Druian of The London Centre for Cosmetic Dentistry.

“Here at the surgery we also notice that the majority of our patients suffering from bruxism are successful women between the ages of 30-40.”

Dr Druian says that whilst it is called teeth “grinding” the most common action a sufferer makes is a clenching of the jaw and it’s this act that can lead to some pretty serious side effects.

“Our jaw is designed for chewing and not clenching, therefore over a long period of time this can lead to many dental issues as well as the degeneration of the joint and possible osteoarthritis,” he explains.

“Not only do your teeth suffer, but you can also develop a square jaw due to the overuse of your jaw muscles.”

As well as over enlarged jaw muscles, regular teeth grinding can cause some harmful oral health issues too. In the short-term, you may suffer from headaches, inflamed gums, aching jaw, stiff shoulders or sleep disruption to name but a few.

However, more detrimental effects such as wearing away of the tooth enamel, tooth breakage and loss or developing Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) can occur over time. Symptoms of TMJ include headaches, dizziness, jaw tenderness and clicking or popping sounds when opening your jaw. Yikes!

Thankfully though, there are some things you can do to help stop the daily grind, not least treating the underlying cause of the issue – your stress!

“As well as increasing their dental check ups (so we can monitor their teeth), we always recommend that our patients seek ways to reduce their stress levels,” Dr Druian explains. “This may be through taking up yoga, reducing alcohol and quitting smoking, talking to someone or even looking at their going to bed routine to try and incorporate some relaxing “me” time.”

Is stress making you grind your teeth? [Photo: Lum3n.com via Pexels]
Is stress making you grind your teeth? [Photo: Lum3n.com via Pexels]

And according to Celebrity Dentist, Dr Richard Marques from Wimpole Street Dental there are some other methods you can try to stop you from grinding your teeth. “You can have a customised biteguard made to protect the teeth and Hypnotherapy can be used to stop grinding by working on the subconscious to address the habit,” he explains. “Acupuncture is another method used to release the jaw tension and one final method is Botox injections into the jaw to relax the muscles.”

Dr Marques says that in severe cases where the teeth have worn away teeth may need to be rebuilt with ceramic or tooth coloured composite material.

So how do you know if you’re suffering from bruxism in the first place?

“If you are having jaw clicking, pain or limited opening you should see your dentist. Also, if you notice your teeth shortening (wearing) you should also see the dentist. Your partner may notice the sound of grinding and will be able to let you know too,” advises Dr Marques.

Waking up with a dull headache regularly could also be an indicator you could be spending the night clenching your jaw.

Aside from nuking your stress (thanks deadlines, daily commute and not quite demolishing our fitness goals), there are some simple lifestyle changes you can incorporate that could help reduce the nightly grind.

Dr Mervyn Druian recommends avoiding chewing gum, reducing your alcohol consumption and cutting back on caffeinated drinks. While managing your stress with regular exercise and quitting smoking might also help keep your teeth grind-free.

If you think you might be suffering from bruxism, see your dentist who will be able to diagnose the condition and help devise a treatment plan.

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