Have you ever woken up with a headache or sore jaw? If so, you could be among the millions suffering from “bruxism”, the clinical name for grinding your teeth during sleep. While certainly an issue for teeth, it’s actually considered a sleep disorder. About 80% of the people grind their teeth at some point in their lifetime.
Stress was thought to be the main culprit behind bruxism. But new research shows that that may not always be the underlying cause. A deeper look at the issue reveals that anything that affects the overall nervous system can trigger bruxism. For example, researchers have found that certain medications, such antidepressants, can activate grinding.
DEFENSE AGAINST DAMAGE
Medications can be changed or stopped but what remains as the most effective treatment is really not really a treatment at all. It’s a mouth guard which reduces the damage grinding causes to the teeth. Normally when you chew, 25 pounds of force is exerted on the molars. But grinding can exert up to 250 pounds of force per square inch. All that extra force cracks teeth and wears away enamel leading to sensitivity to temperature and pressure.
Bruxism can also lead to more severe problems such as temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ); earaches because the jaw joints involved are close to the ear canal; or even Tinnitus, an annoying and persistent ringing of the ear.
THE BEST DEFENSE IS OFFENSE
Because some people may grind and not be aware of it, the American Dental Association recommends regular dental check ups to catch the damage in the early stages. A custom made night guard is the best defense against further damage to teeth. Since stress can bean underlying cause, the recommendation is to find ways to relax including yoga, biofeedback, and listening to soothing music.