Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 18-11-2022
Do you wake up in the morning with an achy jaw? Or, have you noticed that your teeth are looking chipped or cracked? You may be experiencing night-time teeth clenching. This condition can have severe consequences on your oral health and should be treated swiftly to prevent further damage.
What is it?
The technical term for teeth clenching is bruxism (BRUK-siz-um), and it can occur both during the day and at night. It’s an unconscious process, so you might not even know that you do it, especially if you have sleep bruxism! Snoring, sleep apnea, and sleep bruxism are all examples of sleep-related disorders. Individuals who suffer from one of these conditions are more likely to experience the others.
If you clench or grind your teeth during your sleeping hours, then learning how to spot the signs is extremely important. Being able to identify the condition can help you avoid potential health complications. Bruxism can cause damaged teeth, jaw disorders, severe facial pain, and intense headaches.
Causes of Teeth-Clenching
The causes of bruxism vary from person to person. In fact, there are many different reasons that might trigger the night-time teeth clenching condition.
The most common cause of bruxism is stress and anxiety in your everyday life. Feelings of frustration, nervousness, and emotional pain can manifest in your sleep through the grinding of your teeth, thus leaving you with an achy jaw the next morning. If you believe emotions are the cause, the best course of action is to confront the underlying issue in your life. When you start to feel better, your bruxism should go away.
Another emotion that can cause teeth clenching is anger. Aggressive, highly competitive, and angry people have a higher risk of developing bruxism than those with calm dispositions.
Age can also be a determining factor. For example, teething children often end up grinding their teeth. They should grow out of this naturally, but sometimes the condition persists. Your pediatric dentist might recommend a split or a mouthguard.
Sleep bruxism tends to run in the family. If one or more of your relatives experience night-time clenching, then it’s possible that you do as well.
Medications, such as those used to treat depression and PTSD, can cause side effects in the individual, including bruxism. These drugs affect your brain chemistry, and this stimulation can make you clench your teeth.
Other disorders, such as mental and medical disorders, can also cause bruxism. Parkinson’s disease, dementia, GERD, epilepsy, and ADHD all have the potential to trigger teeth grinding in the afflicted.
How to Spot Night-Time Teeth Clenching
Since sleep bruxism happens while you’re sleeping, how can you know if it’s happening to you? There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate a potential problem.
The most obvious is teeth grinding and clenching. If your partner hears you grinding and clenching your teeth, then it’s pretty clear you have bruxism.
Sudden sleep disruption is a good sign that you’re experiencing a sleep disorder. As we mentioned earlier, various sleep disorders tend to go hand-in-hand with each other. If you’re experiencing one, you’re likely to encounter another.
Your teeth appearing chipped, cracked, abraded, fractured, or flattened are additional signs of night-time teeth clenching.
As well, you may begin experiencing increased tooth sensitivity. This is caused by the wearing down of the enamel due to consistent grinding. As the enamel is chipped away, the inner layers of the tooth (the dentin) becomes exposed. Normal foods may start irritating your teeth, particularly when the food is acidic or cold.
Soreness or pain in the jaw, neck, and facial muscles are further symptoms. Clenching your teeth means that the muscles in these areas are constantly moving throughout the night. This can often result in soreness that lasts well into the morning.
Perhaps, you have an earache, but there’s nothing wrong with your ear. This is another sign. Thus, pay particularly close attention to this sort of pain if it occurs alongside soreness in other areas, such as your jaw, neck, or face.
Other signs of night-time teeth clenching include:
- You wake up with a headache. These headaches start in the temples and often indicate sleep bruxism.
- Serious jaw issues, such as jaw dislocation and jaw locking, can be caused by night-time clenching.
- A clicking or popping in your ears or, more specifically, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Aching pains and decreased function of your jaw muscles and joints can be signs of TMJ discomfort or disorder.
- The inside of your cheek is damaged. During sleep bruxism, you may also chew the inside of your cheek.
How to Treat Teeth-Clenching
Once your dentist diagnoses your sleep bruxism, there are a few different treatment options based on your age, overall health, medical history, and preferences. Bruxism can be treated, so it’s a matter of determining the best method for you.
Mouthguards are a fantastic way to manage your sleep bruxism. These removable devices are made of plastic and can be custom-made for your mouth. They prevent future damage to your teeth and can help you to stop clenching your teeth altogether.
If your bruxism is being caused by your own personality dispositions or life circumstances, then getting to the root of the issue should be first on your list. You might find that the night-time teeth clenching alleviates once you’re feeling less stressed or anxious.
Try learning different relaxation techniques, take more time for your hobbies, or make other changes that will reduce the level of negative emotions in your life. Making behavioural or life changes might cause your teeth grinding to disappear.
As bruxism can be caused by an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters, medication can be helpful. Alternatively, changing medications might be what you need to stop your bruxism. Remember, certain antidepressants and PTSD medications can cause night-time teeth clenching.
Protect Your Teeth With a Custom-Made Mouthguard
Like many sleep disorders, mild cases of bruxism may not seem like a cause of alarm. However, it can have significant negative consequences on the health of your teeth and your overall quality of life. Headaches, earaches, facial pain, jaw disorders, cheek damage, chipped teeth, and a lessened quality of sleep can all be caused by night-time teeth clenching.
Avoiding the destructive effects of bruxism can be as simple as a custom-made mouthguard created specifically for you. While removing stressors from your life and potentially changing medication can eventually stop your teeth grinding, it’s a good idea to protect your teeth in the meantime with a mouthguard.
Regardless of the cause of your bruxism, there’s no better way to preserve your smile than a custom-made mouthguard.