Bruxism: Unconscious Teeth Grinding and Clenching
Around 8-10% of the population are affected by Bruxism, more commonly referred to as teeth grinding. However it’s not just grinding teeth that is one of the symptoms of bruxism, it is also commonly associated with jaw clenching. These percentages have skyrocketed with the stress of the pandemic as we carry this anxiety with us when we sleep.
Bruxism is split into two different types. Sleep bruxism is characterized by sufferers grinding their teeth at night and/or contracting their jaw. Awake bruxism is characterized by a lack of grinding teeth but involuntary clenching and bracing of the jaw is still present.
Whichever is present, the results of ongoing teeth grinding and bruxism can include:
Jaw pain, discomfort & reduced movement
Worn & damaged teeth
Although anybody can be affected by the condition, it’s significantly more common between the mid-20s and mid-40s.
Why do people grind their teeth?
There are a number of reasons that are believed to be why people grind their teeth but one of the main causes is believed to be stress and anxiety. This may be the reason why it’s young adults and middle aged people that are affected worst.
Obstructive sleep apnea may be another cause of bruxism. Sleep bruxism often occurs during episodes of deep sleep and specifically, to arousals or stimuli, therefore it may be an indication of a sleep disorder. Again, one of the main symptoms is teeth grinding while sleeping.
Finally, medication, recreational drug use or an underlying medical condition can be causes of bruxism. Certain antidepressants, as well as drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy can induce teeth grinding both while awake and asleep. Parkinson’s disease, depression and anxiety disorders may also be a contributing factor.
How to stop grinding teeth
There are no specific cures as to how to stop teeth grinding as it is often a sign of another condition, however, there are ways of reducing or at least managing bruxism.
Mouth guards (nightguards) or splints can be an effective way to manage teeth grinding and bruxism. While these don’t address the causes, they do manage the effects and reduce damage to the teeth. If it’s believed that stress, anxiety or depression may be the cause of grinding teeth then traditional methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective. Calling out things that cause our stress to our friends and loved ones, as well as writing down the things we are thankful for can be helpful tools in battling anxiety.
Finally, as with a lot of conditions, simply being as healthy as possible can reduce or minimize bruxism. For example, giving up smoking and/or reducing alcohol consumption can help.