Stop Grinding Teeth – Stop Bruxism for Better Sleep
Unconscious clenching of teeth is called bruxism, teeth grinding or jaw clenching. We explain the causes, consequences and therapy of subconscious teeth grinding, to help you stop grinding teeth. Stop bruxism!
Teeth grinding – What is it all about?
Teeth grinding is the constant, unconscious clenching or grinding of the upper and lower teeth against each other – also called bruxism. It belongs to the so-called parafunctions of the chewing mechanism – i.e. functions which, unlike chewing, have no physiological benefit. According to the German Dental Association, almost every third adult German is affected by this phenomenon. Teeth grinding can occur during the day. Mostly, however, the teeth are clenched together at night during REM sleep.
Normally, the upper and lower rows of teeth should not touch during sleep, whilst they are in the so-called resting position. At night, however, grinders unconsciously tense their masticatory (chewing) muscles to such an extent that their teeth grind against each other. The pressure that arises during teeth grinding can be up to 480 kg/cm² and more. This is more than 10 times the normal pressure that results during chewing.
Causes of jaw clenching: Psychological tension
There are several factors that cause teeth grinding. Psychological tension and emotional strain are essential contributors. Under the influence of stress, one out of two people will occasionally grind and clench their teeth during their lifetime. However, it only becomes a permanent problem in 20% of patients.
In addition to stress, respiratory disorders that occur during sleep (e.g. sleep apnea), frequent use of stimulants (e.g. alcohol) and certain medications can also play a role.
Also, anomalies with the bite as a result of tooth misalignment, can trigger bruxism.
Women present this clinical picture more often than men. The age group most frequently affected are people between 30 and 45 years.
Consequences of bruxism: Tooth damage, headaches etc.
Bruxism can lead to considerable damage to the teeth given the severity and duration of the clenching. The permanent clenching slowly erodes hard enamel surface of the tooth, eventually exposing the pulp. This leads to pain-sensitive teeth, can lead to infections and even to the loss of the tooth.
The periodontium also loosens so that teeth can start to wiggle. In extreme cases, a tooth can even break apart in the middle. Existing crowns and bridges can be damaged and the bite position can change.
The clenching is also noticeable in the rest of the chewing mechanism. The strong tension can lead to a hypertrophy of the chewing muscles and muscle tension. Painful cramps develop which can manifest themselves in headache, facial pain, tinnitus or dizziness. This is why it is imperative to stop grinding teeth.
Functional limitations of the jaw can also be noticeable. See study online on craniomandibular dysfunction (CMD).
Insomnia due to bruxism
Insomnia can not only be traced back to psychological strain but also to physical strain: headache, nocturnal perspiration and grinding (=bruxism), weary eyes, muscle tenseness and muscular pains can be the result of chronically fitful sleep. These are warning signals of the organism in response to fitful sleep and should not be ignored. It is therefore very important to stop bruxism.
The dental guard – one of several therapy options to stop bruxism
The use of a night guard, dental guard, mouth guard or mouth splint (all synonyms for the same device), has been proven to be the most effective method against stop grinding teeth. A special dental guard prevents the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth in the upper and lower jaw from touching each other and from eroding the surface of the teeth through the clenching and grinding motions. In most cases, the dental guard is made of one piece and is inserted in the upper jaw, thus covering the upper teeth. How well a dental guard works can best be demonstrated with teeth of different heights in the lower jaw. If the material of the guard is too hard, the entire jaw pressure rests on the protruding tooth tips; and toothache may occur. If the material of the guard is too soft, however, the guard will not work effectively or will only have a very short service life.
There are several types of dental guards to stop grinding teeth
Custom-made made guards are typically moulded by a dentist or dental technician. They are optimally adapted to the teeth, but can sometimes be perceived as uncomfortable because of their perfect fit. The so-called “ski boot effect” occurs. This means that the insertion is uncomfortable and it causes pressure in many places. But once the guard is in place, wearing it is perceived as comfortable.
In addition, individually moulded guards can be very expensive. An alternative to this can be so-called boil’n bite guard – night guards which can be individually moulded at home in a warm water bath. The guard is heated in warm water and the material becomes soft as wax. You insert it into the upper jaw, bite hard and thus adapt the guard to the individual bite. These individually moulded night guards are comfortable and cost significantly less than their professional counterparts.
Finally, there is the so-called entry-level segment. These are night guards that cannot be adapted. As a rule, however, they are accompanied by severe discomfort and sometimes even functional limitations.
In addition to specialized bruxism guards, snoring mouthpieces – including mandibular advancement devices – also stop grinding teeth to a certain extent. Their design prevents the teeth of the upper and lower jaw from touching each other. The guards acts as a protective barrier. However, strong grinders should be careful: These guards can be bitten through with particularly high bite forces and intense grinding.
Aside from the range of the therapeutic aids, relaxation techniques can also stop bruxism. Physiotherapeutic measures such as facial massages are useful, for example, to loosen the chewing muscles. Yoga and Pilates as well as acupuncture can also be used as supplements to stop bruxism. Here everyone should find out for themselves what does them good and helps them to relax.