Teeth grinding, or bruxism, has been puzzling dentists and sufferers alike for a number of years. While there are many noted factors and some working theories, no one knew for sure what made certain people grind their teeth at night. However, new discoveries and research are shining light on grinding teeth, pinpointing more precise reasons. Some of the possible causes are: blocked airways, sleep disorders and lifestyle factors.
As you sleep, your brain goes through various stages signifying the lighter and deeper sleep stages. Approaching deep sleep, the brain sends signals for the body’s muscles to relax, which can lead to the jaw becoming heavy. This can further lead to a blockage of the airways and tongue. Teeth grinding can actually clear the blockage to allow the patient to breathe normally again.
The link between teeth grinding and sleep disorders has been noticed for quite some time where patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea have a higher incidence of bruxism. This disorder also causes heavy snoring, gasping for air and disruptions in breathing. Other sleep disorders that cause a patient to grind his or her teeth are: sleep paralysis, talking during sleep and violent and destructive behaviors that occur while sleeping.
Lifestyle and Demographic Factors
A variety of lifestyle and demographic factors can play a role in bruxism. For example, younger people, petite women and people suffering from anxiety or depression are at higher risk. Consuming large amounts of alcohol, smoking, drinking caffeine and taking certain medications can put a person more at risk for grinding their teeth.
When sleep apnea is the cause of teeth grinding, one of the most common treatments for the disorder is dental night guards. These dental appliances are worn in the mouth to protect the teeth from the wear and tear that often results as a consequence of grinding. By protecting the teeth, guards can prevent more extensive problems like damage to the gums, chronic jaw pain, recurring headaches and tooth decay. Persistent grinding can also cause the teeth to chip and crack, which can cause pain and cosmetic issues.
Contact Our Office
If you suffer from teeth grinding, it’s important that you meet with a dentist to design a treatment plan that can include dental night guards. To stop the pain and effects caused by grinding teeth, contact our office to schedule a consultation.