Teeth grinding effects 1 in 10 adults. It is even more prevalent in children, but declines with age. Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is the condition of grinding, gnashing, or clenching of your teeth. Sleep bruxism — night-time grinding — is most common, although awake bruxism does occur. Symptoms include jaw, ear, and head-aches. Teeth can also be damaged. Ask your dentist if you have signs of bruxism.
Stress and Anxiety
The causes of bruxism are not completely known. They may be physical, psychological or genetic. Stress and anxiety may induce awake bruxism. Sleep bruxism may be activity related to sleep arousals (awakenings from sleep apnea or snoring).
Reduce stress at bed-time by:
- try to relax in the hours before bedtime
- maintain a consistent soothing routine
- create a cool, comfortable, and dark sleep environment
- keep work-related items like computers out of the bedroom
Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine
All of these drugs can interfere with normal sleep patterns which could result in an increase of bruxism. Other conditions like sleep apnea and snoring are also aggravated by these substances. Consider lifestyle changes that reduce or eliminate alcohol, nicotone, and caffeine for improvements in sleep patterns.
Sleep apnea and snoring are thought to contribute to sleep bruxism. Seek treatment for sleep apnea from your doctor or dentist. Night guard users have reported both increases and decreases in the incidents of snoring. More study is needed to better understand how devices like occlusal splints impact these medical conditions.
Occlusal Splint (Night Guard)
An occlusal splint is commonly used as a night guard for teeth protection. Splints do not stop the grinding, but they do protect the wearer’s teeth from damage. Splints can be purchased over-the-counter or through a dentist. Over-the-counter night guards are made by thermoforming or “boil and bite”. Many dentists offer a custom-made occlusal splint. This type is now available direct to the consumer.
Do you have experience with a night guard? Tell us about it in the comments!
Blake, K. (2016, February 29). Teeth grinding: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 22). Bruxism (teeth grinding).
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). 3 Tips for Coping with Bruxism or Teeth Grinding.