Bruxism is grinding or clenching your teeth. This is an issue because tooth enamel that is worn down cannot be replaced. Worn teeth may require crowns or other dental work in order to prevent decay and preserve tooth function. Depending on the severity of the grinding and clenching, you could even fracture your teeth or damage any dental work you have had done.
Causes of Bruxism
Two common causes of bruxism are sleep apnea and chronic stress.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing during the night. People who suffer from this condition are often unaware. Your partner may notice extremely loud snoring or noises from your grinding teeth. Your dentist may notice that your teeth are worn. (Please note that the only way to diagnose sleep apnea is by participating in a sleep study.) When suffering from sleep apnea, your body is not receiving enough oxygen. As your body is deprived of oxygen, your muscles tighten up, causing your jaw to clench and your teeth to grind. When you wake up in the morning, you may notice that your face feels sore. You may also feel like you did not sleep at all.
Chronic stress is a constant feeling of pressure throughout your day. Maybe you notice your teeth clenching or grinding when speaking to a coworker about upcoming projects. Maybe your jaw tightens when you are paying the bills. Whenever you notice it, your teeth may be suffering from your overall stress level.
Treatment of Bruxism
There are several treatments available to help a wide variety of people with bruxism. Talk to professionals about options that interest you:
-Oral appliances: These are mouthguards that are worn at night to both treat your sleep apnea and protect your teeth from grinding and clenching. There are also mouthguards designed for daily use.
-Injectables: Certain cosmetic treatments (like Botox) can also be effective in relaxing muscles to relieve tension headaches, treat TMD, and ease muscle fatigue caused by teeth grinding.
-Practice “Lips Together, Teeth Apart”: Make conscious efforts to close your mouth while keeping a gap between your teeth, especially in stressful moments.
-Cut the Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you from resting when you should. Consider reducing or cutting your caffeine intake to help your body deal with your day more easily.
-Exercise: Physical exercise is a great way to work out any tension in your body. Vigorous exercise can also help you sleep better at night, which makes you more ready to take on your day.
-Lifestyle Changes: Only you know what is causing stress in your life and what can be done about it. Whether the stress comes from your job or a situation in your life, consider making changes that will reduce that stressor’s influence over your emotional outlook.
Whatever the cause of your teeth grinding or clenching, ask professionals to help you. Doing so now will keep you healthier (and smiling brighter) for the lifetime ahead.