If you’ve ever woken up with a sore jaw, you know just how painful a problem like tooth grinding can be. It’s not just an annoying habit; it’s a disorder complete with a fancy name — bruxism. This disorder causes you to clench or grind your teeth. It usually happens during sleep, classifying the disorder as a Parasomnia (physical phenomena that occur predominantly during sleep). And it’s more common than you think. In a study conducted in 2004, it was estimated that nearly 10 percent of the adult population engages in clinically significant nocturnal bruxism.
Ever wonder why teeth clenching is associated with anger and frustration? According to the Mayo Clinic, suppressed anger, stress or tension can contribute to this nightly habit. And while these causes make sense for adults, it doesn’t explain why children sometimes grind their teeth. Another study that was featured in the Huffington Post suggests that airway instability during sleep may also contribute to tooth grinding. Disorders such as the Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can lead to significant upper airway resistance or obstruction during sleep. This, in turn, causes tooth grinding.
The number-one consequence of tooth grinding is the damage it does to your teeth. It wears down your teeth and can lead to major dental procedures, including restorations and crowns. Chronic grinding also puts pressure on the muscles, tissues and your jaw. This can cause temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ). Headaches, earaches and facial pain are also repercussions of nighttime clenching.
Go to your dentist! He or she is the best person to identify and treat the root cause of your bruxism. For instance, if your disorder is because of upper airway resistance, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) could be the solution. If it’s due to stress, relaxation techniques could help. Your dentist is the best person to suggest treatments. He or she could also prescribe a mouth guard to prevent jaw and dental damage in your sleep.