Grinding your teeth is a condition often put down to stress or an anxiety disorder. You’ll usually realise when you’re doing it, even if you can’t put a stop to the habit. If you’re grinding your teeth at night, on the other hand, you might not even realise you’re doing it, as you’ll be unconscious at the time.
So, what exactly is the cause of sleep bruxism? It’s thought that a combination of anxiety and stress, as well as alcohol consumption and smoking, are the main factors behind the development of the condition. If you snore or have sleep apnoea, you’re also at a greater risk of developing sleep bruxism.
It’s important to treat sleep bruxism as it can cause damage to your teeth and even lead to jaw joint disorders. If you have sleep bruxism, you might also experience headaches, jaw pain, and ear pain, which over time can severely impact the quality of life.
In many cases, sleep bruxism is easily diagnosed by a dentist. If you visit the same dentist regularly, they will be able to detect any changes to your teeth and mouth and ask you questions to determine the underlying cause. Your dentist might also ask about your sleeping habits, such as the times you go to bed and how long you usually sleep for, which can both play a minor part in night-time teeth grinding.
Your teeth usually indicate whether you’ve been grinding them in your sleep or not. If you notice that your teeth appear flattened or worn, or you have chipped or cracked teeth that you can’t explain, you most likely have sleep bruxism.
Preventing Sleep Bruxism
There are many things you can do to prevent sleep bruxism going forward. Not all techniques will work for you, but you should find that a combination of a few help you to cut down on the habit. Some of the best ways to prevent sleep bruxism include:
Treating a sleep disorder
If a sleeping disorder, like sleep apnoea, is causing you to grind your teeth at night, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit.
Cutting down on caffeine
Experts think that night-time caffeine consumption is linked to teeth clenching during sleep. It makes sense — the caffeine elevates your energy and heart rate, and poor sleep and teeth grinding can occur as a result. To prevent this, try switching to decaf or water after 3 pm, and avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
Grinding your teeth can get worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine, so if you already have a history of grinding your teeth in your sleep, try skipping your glass of wine before bed or your caffeinated cocktail to help reduce grinding.
Don’t chew – unless it’s food!
Try to get rid of any bad habits, like chewing on pencils or pens – or anything, in fact, that isn’t food. In the same way, you should avoid chewing gum as it makes your jaw muscles get used to clenching, making you more likely to grind your teeth while you’re asleep.
No matter what other methods you put in place, you should always combine them with your own self-to-self training on not clenching or grinding your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, you’re much more likely to do it at night, too.
The best way to prevent yourself from grinding your teeth is to position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax, so you’re less likely to clench or grind your teeth overnight.
If you’re still struggling with sleep bruxism, you can relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
Practice stress reduction techniques
For some people, teeth grinding can be linked to mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. If you grind your teeth, stress-reduction techniques may help in some cases.
Methods like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can help to reduce your heart rate and encourage your body to release “happy” hormones like endorphins. Stress reduction can also benefit your overall health, so it’s a win-win all around.
Consider a custom-made mouthguard
If you can’t stop grinding your teeth, and you don’t think you’ll be able to curb the habit yourself, it might be worth considering a custom-made mouthguard. These fit specifically to the shape of your jaw, can help protect your teeth from damage, and might also reduce the strain on your jaw.
Custom-made mouthguards are more expensive than the other options mentioned in this video but maybe a better choice for some people.
It’s possible to stop grinding your teeth without medical intervention. If you follow these tips mentioned in this video, you should see an improvement in your grinding habit after a few weeks to a month. Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor if you’re still experiencing issues beyond this time.
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