Sleep Bruxism, also known as nocturnal tooth grinding, is a medical condition in which you clench or grind your teeth while sleeping. Teeth clenching is when you hold your top and bottom teeth together tightly, and teeth grinding is when you repeatedly slide your top teeth over your bottom teeth. Unconscious teeth grinding when awake is known as awake bruxism.
Considered a sleep-related movement disorder, sleep bruxism is often associated with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea (gaps in breathing) and snoring. Sleep bruxism is a common disorder, with one survey estimating that 8% of all adults grind their teeth during sleep, and as many as a third of children grind their teeth. Occasional bruxism may not be detrimental, but regular teeth grinding can result in dental and other oral problems as well as facial pain, jaw disorders, earaches, and headaches.
Because sleep bruxism happens at night, most people are unaware of it until complications develop. Some symptoms of sleep bruxism are:
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor or dentist.
Risk factors and causes
While researchers don’t fully understand the causes of sleep bruxism, it may be due to a number of factors. They include:
Awake bruxism may be caused by anxiety or stress, and it may be a coping strategy.
How is sleep bruxism diagnosed?
Because sleep bruxism occurs while we sleep, it is difficult to know if it is a problem. It is usually diagnosed after a sleep partner complains, or if we are experiencing symptoms. Once you see your dentist, she will evaluate your teeth and jaw to look for signs of sleep bruxism (such as loose or cracked teeth) or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. If one of your symptoms is an earache, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist to rule out an ear infection.
Some things you can do
If you are having dental issues, make sure you see your dentist or doctor right away. For low-grade symptoms, there are some things you can do to alleviate discomfort.
If you find that you are grinding your teeth, you can stop bruxism by:
While occasional sleep bruxism may not be harmful, chronic sleep bruxism can cause discomfort. Left untreated, this can result in the need for major dental work. It can also result in TMJ. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above (or are becoming more severe), see your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.
Sleep bruxism often occurs with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If your bruxism appears to be related to a major sleep issue, you may be referred to a sleep medicine specialist. Evidence suggests that treating sleep apnea often reduces sleep bruxism. If your sleep bruxism is stress or anxiety related, you may be referred to a therapist.
Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!