You are sleeping at night and enjoying a dream, when suddenly you hear a continuous gravelling sound. For a minute, you think it’s a rat, trying to find its way out of the sink cabinet. Then, you rubbish such thoughts and take the courage to open one eye at a time. The source of the gritting sound, you find, is your sibling or partner, sleeping in the same room. You observe him/her as he/she clenches hard, grinding his/her teeth. You wonder if it’s serious and whether you should wake him/her up or let him/her delve in the distraught stupor. Have you faced this situation? If yes, then what you observed is clinically called bruxism. You would be glad to know that grinding teeth at night is a common habit. However, if left unattended, it can become a major health issue.
Nighttime teeth grinding, or bruxism, is characterized by clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth. Based on research findings, it is classified as a sleep disorder and habitual behavior. It is not considered as a reflex, because it mainly involves control at a subconscious level, while reflex actions are response to stimuli at a conscious level. As it mainly happens during sleep, many people are unaware of this habit. In fact, it is said that only five percent of ‘bruxers’ develop symptoms. However, if the treatment is delayed, it can lead to fractured teeth, gum and jaw problems. Some of the symptoms of bruxism include headaches or migraines in the morning, pain in the jaw, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), earache, eating disorder, stress, insomnia and feeling exhausted. Discussed further are some of the causes of teeth grinding at night and ways in which you can deal with the problem.
Causes Of Nighttime Teeth Grinding
The main causes of teeth grinding are stress, medical issues and psychological problems. Some of the causes that can be dealt with are:
- Undergoing excessive stress or tension
- Irregular work timings or demanding work schedules
- Lack of sleep or undisciplined sleeping patterns
- Calcium deficiency
- Presence of parasites, like pinworms
- Built up energy that is allowed to channelize only when asleep
- People with repressed anger that is internalized
Remedies For Grinding Teeth At Night
Some of the remedies that could be adopted to prevent grinding of teeth have been mentioned below:
- Before sleep, place a warm, damp towel on your face, particularly your jaw, to make it more relaxed. A warm bath before sleep will also help.
- Relieve tension and stress by exercising. Stretching, meditating or practicing yoga may help in being more calm and relaxed.
- Identify and deal with anger issues, by constructively channelizing your frustrations.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, chocolate and cola (especially in the evenings)
- Make a conscious effort to condition yourself during the day, when you notice yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Place the tip of your tongue between your teeth, to relax jaw muscles.
- Visit your dentist to find out if the teeth grinding is a dental or medical issue, due to teeth alignment. If yes, ask him to suggest appropriate treatment.
- After taking advice from a dentist, wear a mouth night guard, which is a device made of plastic or acrylic to help lessen the grinding impact on your teeth.
- These are only suggestions that you could use, before your teeth crumble to non-existence. However, it is strongly advisable to get professional or medical advice before dealing with the problem.