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Ask The Expert: Should You Be Worried If You’re GRINDING Your TEETH In Your Sleep?

Short answer: It depends on what might be the cause.

“The sooner you fix the problem, the sooner you will be on the path to a fuller life, without health issues”, says Dr. Mike Faktor from Expat Dental.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common habit – it’s usually done while you sleep. If it’s done occasionally, bruxism is usually harmless. However, if you are grinding your teeth regularly, it can wear down your teeth, crack any tooth crowns and result in headaches and other oral health complications.

If you wake up with headache or a painful and tight jaw, technically known as temporomandibular joint soreness or TMJ, bruxism or teeth grinding may be to blame.

Ever wondered what exactly causes teeth grinding – especially during sleep? Dental expert Dr. Mike Faktor explains what’s going on.

What causes bruxism or teeth grinding when you sleep?

Previously, dentists were trained to think that stress, anxiety or tension made people grind their teeth. The only fix was to wear a night-guard for the rest of your life. However, research from Sleep Foundation revealed that bruxism can also be caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Smoking, alcohol consumption or recreational drug use are other known causes for bruxism. Bruxism is not completely understood, but it may be due to a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors. It may be due to frustration, but it may also just be a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration.

Does teeth grinding when you sleep cause damage?

Some patients who grind their teeth when they sleep report feeling a soreness in their jaws and gums. In more chronic cases, bruxism can cause teeth to fracture, wear down to the stumps or fall out entirely. It can also change your facial appearance, by overdeveloping the jaw muscles.

What are some of the symptoms?

Common symptoms include teeth grinding or teeth clenching. Sometimes the grinding can be loud enough to wake you up, or distrurb your sleeping partner. Feeling tired, with soreness or tightness in the jaw muscles, increased tooth sensitivity and dull headaches originating from your temples are also symptoms of bruxism.

A scalloped tongue is another clue you may be grinding your teeth in your sleep. Look at your tongue when you wake up to check if it’s scalloped or indented along the sides. This is caused by your tongue pressing hard against the surfaces of your teeth. It can be caused by grinding your teeth.

Can bruxism be treated?

Your orthodontist can create a mouth guard for you to protect your teeth from wearing out. These are made-to-measure for you, so they are more comfortable than the standard mouthguards you might buy at a pharmacy or sporting goods store.

Depending on the individual, oral appliances, medication or surgery may also be helpful. Some patients benefit from botulinum toxin injections, which can be used to treat muscle spasms and over-developed jaw muscles. If a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit. If stress is the root cause of your bruxism, consider seeing a counsellor, and starting an exercise programme  to ease your stress.

Originally by Dr. Mike Faktor from Expat Dental for The Finder (Issue 293), June 2018 / Last updated + additional reporting by Willaine G. Tan

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