Bruxism is the medical term for grinding teeth and/or clenching one's jaw unconsciously. Grinding or clenching can occur both when awake or asleep. However, sleep bruxism is generally a more significant health concern.
Those with sleep bruxism may not know they’re grinding or clenching, meaning the disorder can easily be left untreated and can lead to broken or damaged teeth, headaches, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. The constant tensing of muscles does not allow the body to relax, ultimately affecting sleep quality.
The exact causes of bruxism are unknown, but risk factors include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Regular alcohol, drug, caffeine and nicotine use.
Lifestyle modifications can help reduce symptoms and improve sleep quality for people experiencing bruxism. These include:
- Improving sleep hygiene
- Reducing stress through meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises
- Avoiding hard foods and chewing gum in order to keep jaw muscles more relaxed
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol, drugs, caffeine and nicotine
Dental devices such as occlusal guards and splits can also help prevent further damage to the teeth and jaw.