When you're feeling annoyed, angry or stressed, a common reaction is to clench your jaw and grit your teeth. In some cases, though, grinding teeth, also called bruxism, happens involuntarily. You might not be able to control your teeth grinding or you might not even be aware it's happening, especially if it occurs during your sleep. Several factors can cause you to grind your teeth during the night.
Once you know what's causing your bruxism, you can work with a dentist to come up with a solution to your problem.
How to Know if You're Grinding Your Teeth at Night
First things first, you need to determine if you're grinding your teeth during the night. If you share a bed with a partner, they might hear your teeth clashing against each other while you sleep. You can ask them if they hear anything at night.
While you might not feel yourself grinding your teeth in your sleep, you may feel the after-effects in the morning. A sore jaw, earache or headache are some common signs of nighttime bruxism. You might notice that the surface of your teeth becomes worn down or that you have some chips or cracks in your teeth. Tooth pain or sensitivity is another sign that you're grinding your teeth.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Some people are more likely to have bruxism than others and there are a number of factors that can trigger it. Often, stress or sleep disorders are behind teeth grinding.
High levels of stress in your life can cause you to grind your teeth during your sleep. Stress is one of the most common causes of teeth grinding at night. Finding ways to relax, such as by meditating, reducing the number of things on your plate or exercising, can help lower your stress levels and ease your bruxism.
2. Sleep Disorders
Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can lead to nighttime teeth grinding. When you have sleep apnea, you stop and start breathing throughout the night. You might also move your jaw uncontrollably while you sleep, which can contribute to sleep apnea. If you snore loudly or find that you wake up feeling like you didn't sleep at all, it can be worth it to talk to your dentist about possible treatments for bruxism and sleep apnea.
Similar to stress, some people might grind their teeth when they're feeling anxious. Working with a therapist can help you manage your anxiety levels and minimize the risk of grinding your teeth while you sleep.
4. TMJ Disorders
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw to the skull, allowing you to open and close your mouth. People develop TMJ disorder, which causes jaw pain and a clicking or popping noise when they open their mouths, for a number of reasons. In some instances, teeth grinding can be a sign of a TMJ disorder or a direct result of a problem with the joint. If the TMJ is over-stimulated or misaligned, it can cause you to clench your teeth while you sleep. Clear dental aligners can help correct an issue with the jaw and teeth, easing your symptoms.
Certain types of medication can also cause you to grind your teeth. Often, bruxism is a side effect of antidepressants. If that's the case for you, talk to your doctor or therapist. They might recommend changing medicines or trying other therapies to see if something works better for you.
6. Lifestyle and Habits
Your lifestyle choices may contribute to bruxism, too. If you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, the caffeine in them might make you grind your teeth. The same is true for alcoholic beverages. Smoking or using other drugs might also cause teeth grinding, too.
Quitting smoking or drugs and cutting back on alcohol and caffeine might be enough to keep you from clenching your teeth at night.
The best treatment for teeth grinding depends on the underlying cause. Lifestyle changes or medication adjustments might be all you need to get the problem under control. If bruxism has caused significant wear and tear on your teeth, a dentist can help restore them, through crowns, veneers or dental implants, depending on the situation. A custom-fit night guard can also help protect your teeth from additional wear and tear.
If you're tired of waking up tired or with jaw pain, schedule a consultation with the team at Las Cruces Dental Solutions. We'll work with you to come up with a solution that protects your teeth and lets you get a good night's sleep.