How to Know if You’re Grinding Your Teeth and How to Break the Habit

On the surface, the act of grinding your teeth might not sound so bad. Most people understand teeth-grinding as a sleep-related disorder that involves grinding, gnashing, or clenching of the teeth and may approach it as untreatable. However, teeth grinding can contribute to damaged teeth and enamel as well as jaw tension and pain. Teeth grinding is also referred to as bruxism. Bruxism can be divided into two categories: asleep bruxism and awake bruxism. While both types involve teeth grinding, they are distinct in their causes. 

Awake bruxism can be triggered by anxiety, stress, intense concentration, medication, or other substances like caffeine. Sometimes awake bruxism is recognized in dementia patients. It is easier to identify and treat awake bruxism because it can be resolved with stress-reduction techniques, biofeedback, and muscle exercises to relax the jaw. Asleep bruxism is much harder to catch and can do some considerable damage. According to the Sleep Foundation, “a sleeping person doesn’t realize their bite strength, so they more tightly clench their teeth, employing up to 250 pounds of force.”

Asleep Bruxism Causes and How to Know You Have It

Asleep bruxism, similarly to awake bruxism, can be caused by stress and intense levels of anxiety. Besides emotional triggers, asleep bruxism can also be genetic or linked with smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine, and sleep apnea. So how can you determine if you have asleep bruxism? There are many techniques for diagnosis. Polysomnography, an overnight study at a sleep clinic, is the most conclusive and time-consuming way to determine if you have sleep bruxism. Your dentist can also diagnose you.

The best way to identify asleep bruxism without this procedure is to monitor symptoms like tooth damage and jaw pain. According to an article in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, if you also suffer from awake bruxism, you are three times more likely to do it while you are asleep. 

Asleep Bruxism Treatments

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to treat sleep bruxism. Since both asleep and awake bruxism has been strongly linked with stress, the best way to start treatment is by reducing exposure to stressful and anxious situations. There is no way to completely eradicate stress, but stress reduction combined with good sleep hygiene may help significantly. 

Other tools for treating asleep bruxism include medication and mouthpieces. According to the Sleep Foundation, medications for bruxism “work by altering brain chemicals to reduce muscle activity involved with teeth grinding.” In more extreme cases, Botox injections can be used to limit teeth grinding. Mouth guards and dental splints create a barrier between teeth and prevent damage. Your dentist commonly makes dental splints to suit your dental needs. If you suspect you may have bruxism, consult your dentist.

If you need more help with your grinding, please contact us at iSmile Dental in Langley.

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Grinding teeth unknowingly? Tackle bruxism with iSmile Dental, your Langley dentist. Search "dentist near me" for expert help and preserve your smile today!