Do you grind your teeth? It is not necessarily due to stress.
Perhaps you wake up in the morning with your teeth and jaws swollen. It could be from grinding your teeth, a condition known as bruxism. The habit of continually grinding your teeth and clenching of the jaws could develop at any age. It could either occur when you are deep in your sleep or when you wake up. It is common to find people clenching their jaws when trying to concentrate on a particular task. During daytime, it is done when reading, solving tough mathematical problems, lifting massive objects or driving. When sleeping, it
occurs as a result of rhythmic contractions.
The causes of teeth grinding
There could be many explanations on why you may be grinding your teeth. Here are the
three most popular theories:
1. Issues with your teeth
This could be from having missing teeth or teeth that do not line up properly. Misalignment of teeth is better known as occlusion. It simply means that your teeth do not meet when you close your jaw. The root source of this could be due to having problems with your jaw structure. You will need to see a dentist where you can undergo various tests such as X-rays
to determine if this is the cause for your tooth grinding.
2. Stress and anxiety
You are more likely to clench your jaw when you are asleep especially when you are
excessively worried. Financial strain, relationship issues, work and any other problems do not vanish when you sleep. As a result, they increase your stress levels at night and stimulate more teeth grinding activities.
3. Medical problems
Bruxism can occur due to the intake of certain medicines such as various antidepressants or Parkinson’s disease. Increased stomach acid and sleeping problems may lead to teeth grinding in the night.
However, recent research that has been carried out regarding teeth grinding has shown a set of different reasons. In the past, grinding of teeth was associated with increased stress. The latest research shows that interruption of breathing while sleeping could cause teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding as a result of stress has been disproven since it does not explain why a fetus in the womb grinds their teeth. Therefore, teeth grinding has remained a medical mystery to doctors, dentists and researchers.
Fortunately, research has also shown that teeth grinding is as a survival instinct. This new research has helped come up with better ways to diagnose and treat this problem.
The brain travels across different stages of sleep, lighter and deeper ones. During the deep phase of sleep, the muscles in the entire body are induced into relaxing. As a result, the airway can get blocked. This is because the jaw is heavy which results in blockage of the airway and tongue. When the jaw is in a relaxed mode, it expands in size to block entry of air into the body.
Researchers examined brain scans of partially blocked airways when individuals were asleep. They realized that bruxism reopened the airway and stimulated breathing once again.
When the jaw is held in the right position using dental appliances to avoid blockage of the airway; the grinding of teeth ceased. The loss of breath during sleep too.
Results of teeth grinding
There are adverse effects of teeth grinding as much as it saves lives. However, grinding
causes interruptions when sleeping.
When the muscles in the jaw cause grinding, the body is forced out of the deep sleep state. This affects the health benefits an individual get from deep sleep. Some of this benefits include slowing down the process of aging, releasing the human growth hormone, memory improvement, preventing the wrinkling of skin and diseases such as Alzheimer’s. When a sleep disorder is untreated, it can result in high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular
problems, depression and increased weight gain. Therefore, make sure that you get quality sleep.
Grinding over an extended period of time damages the teeth. It also leads to sensitive teeth and tooth decay. Worse still, it could increase jaw pains and permanently destroy the jaw. When you feel a lot of pressure on your temple, it could indicate you have issues with your temporomandibular joint due to the grinding (TMJ).TMJ can also feel as a headache.
How to treat teeth grinding?
Treat the root cause, not the signs and symptoms.
Treating the airway prevents grinding.
Your airway could be small which brings about the need to grind your teeth. This is because your airway collapses when you are asleep. This is a severe case which should receive treatment immediately.
Avoid using a mouth guard. It could change the position of the jaw leading to blockage of the airway.
If you grind your teeth, what should you do?
• Visit a reputable dentist. Your dentist should test you for teeth grinding and examine your
airway when you are lying flat on the bench. While you sleep, the dentist will use an oral
appliance that will open your airway. A CPAP machine will help the dentist achieve excellent results.
• Ask your dentist to recommend you for a sleep study. A sleep specialist can diagnose sleep apnea from the study.
• Do not use a mouth guard. You might think it protects your teeth, but it may cause
increased sleep disorders.