Thursday, February 25, 2016

Do You Grind Your Teeth at Night?

If you have ever noticed upon waking that your teeth and jaws are sore, you may be grinding your teeth in your sleep. The technical term for this phenomenon is bruxism, which is explained as, "the rhythmic clenching of the jaws and grinding together of the teeth." According to the Colgate Oral Care Center, this activity can develop at any age. For most folks this activity takes place at night, however, some may do it unconsciously when they are awake. It can begin as a habit that involves placing the teeth together and lightly clenching the muscles of the jaws. Those who become deeply engrossed in certain tasks may be prone to this activity. Colgate's analysts report that, "This is commonly associated with the daytime tasks of lifting heavy objects, driving, reading and writing."

Headaches are the most common complaint for those who suffer from bruxism. In fact, the Bruxism Association reveals that individuals who regularly grind their teeth in their sleep are three times more likely to suffer from headaches. Along with causing an abnormal amount of wear and tear on the teeth that can lead to cracks in the enamel and broken teeth, there are other problems. Sufferers report symptoms that include TMJ, neck and ear pain, muscle aches, enlarged facial muscles, shoulder pain, plus interrupted sleep patterns.

So, other than the habit forming from repetitive behavior, what are the other causes? Possible explanations that frequently come up are: stress, anxiety, smoking, heavy alcohol use, excessive caffeine consumption, depression and sleep problems. However, the Bruxism Association notes that there is not a lot of medical evidence to support those claims. Instead, bruxism is more closely linked to snoring and sleep apnea. Stress and anxiety are also frequently proposed as the root of the matter. The Bruxism Association's findings show that, "70 percent of people clench and grind their teeth as a result of stress and anxiety. It should come as no surprise that workplace stress has been identified as a highly probable source.

With so many possible explanations for bruxism, it stands to reason that the cause must be identified before a treatment plan begins. One's dentist is the most qualified professional for this job! Through a comprehensive oral exam your dentist should be able to spot why teeth grinding is occurring and then develop a tailor-made treatment plan.

A custom-made night guard is the most common course of action for this problem. You may hear it referred to by a variety of names, including, occlusal splints, occlusal bite guards, bite plates or bruxism appliances. Overall, they are all designed to reduce jaw muscle pain and protect both the teeth and temporomandibular joint. Each one of these mouth pieces is custom made after your dentist makes a set of molds of your teeth to create an appliance that will fit snugly over your top or bottom teeth-or both. They are worn at night and have been long considered to be the best treatment option.

If a sleep disorder such as snoring or sleep apnea is suspected, then an appliance known as a mandibular advancement device may be prescribed. The hope is that this type of appliance will open the airway and prevent the uvula from falling back into the throat, which in turn should alleviate the sleep disorder.

When stress or anxiety is determined to be the contributing factor to teeth grinding, behavioral management is the treatment of choice. Along with learning relaxation and meditation techniques, psychoanalysis and even hypnosis have been successful. In fact, the Bruxism Association revealed that a study showed hypnosis to have positive long-term effects. Another effective choice may be a combination of treatments that employ both behavioral modification and a custom-made appliance.

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