Understanding Nighttime Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding

Understanding Nighttime Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or jaw clenching is also known as bruxism. It is a condition in which people grind or clench their teeth mostly during sleep or unconsciously while awake. Bruxism affects both children and adults and often goes undiagnosed if people sleep alone. So, how to know whether or not you suffer from bruxism? The answer is looking for the symptoms which include:

  • Chipped or damaged teeth
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Tenderness in jaw muscles
  • Pain in your jaw or face
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Poor sleep

That said, if you are experiencing any of the above-listed bruxism symptoms, ensure you make a dental appointment as soon as possible. And now, let’s move on to see what causes teeth grinding and jaw clenching in sleep.

What Causes Sleep Bruxism?

Even though the exact causes of bruxism haven’t been completely understood yet, certain risk factors increase the risk of developing teeth grinding or jaw clenching for some people, including:

  • Breathing Issues – Sleep breathing issues at nighttime and bruxism are closely connected. In general, the healthiest way to breathe during sleep is through the nose. However, people with bruxism often breathe through their mouth which can lead to additional health issues. In the end, sleep quality is significantly reduced.
  • Anxiety and Depression – Both of these mental health disorders are a risk factor for bruxism. Awake bruxism is closely linked to emotional responses like anger or frustration. Depression also has a strong connection with awake bruxism.
  • Sleep Apnea – One of the major risk factors for bruxism, out of all sleep disorders, is obstructive sleep apnea. But, be aware that bruxism also goes together with other sleep disorders diagnosed by doing a sleep study.
  • Age-Related Illness – The elderly often suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. And, all these age-related illnesses are commonly linked with awake bruxism too.
  • Certain Medications – Unfortunately, sleep bruxism might be a side effect of some commonly prescribed medications, such as fluoxetine, venlafaxine, sertraline, and antipsychotics.
  • Some Lifestyle Choices – Last but not least, certain lifestyle choices can also contribute to bruxism. For instance, bruxism is common in heavy smokers and coffee drinkers, as well as alcohol consumption.

Next, after understanding the causes of bruxism, it’s time we have a look at the treatment options for teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

How to Treat Bruxism?

Finally, if you want to put an end to your nighttime jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding, you should consult your dentist and see what options are available. Mainly, there are several treatment options that doctors recommend, including:

  • Stress Management – As stress contributes to bruxism, it is logical that you can make the condition much more manageable if you reduce your stress levels. Hence, practice some stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness exercises.
  • Mouthguard – Wearing a mouthguard, or other dental appliance, is a pretty effective way to manage sleep bruxism. This appliance fits on the lower jaw and serves as a protective barrier to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
  • Botox Injections – Although it may sound surprising, research suggests that repeated Botox injections are an effective treatment for sleep bruxism.
  • A Therapist – Working with a physical or functional therapist, or psychologist, might also be helpful since a physical therapist can assist with pain, a functional therapist can assist with proper breathing and tongue or facial muscle function, whereas a behavioral psychologist can help in identifying the negative habits affecting bruxism.