Even though our teeth are made of very strong hydroxyapatite particles, excessive grinding or clenching will eventually wear off the enamel and cause irreversible damage to the teeth and occasionally joints as well.
Teeth Grinding Causes
While the exact cause of grinding is a controversial area of research, here are several commonly accepted reasons for grinding:
- Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome(UARS) and sleep apnea are the most common reason for the night time grinding and clenching! UARS is similar to sleep apnea but not as severe.
- When the body is not receiving the proper amount of oxygen while sleeping, the jaw compensates by moving side to side or front to back in attempt to open the airway and get the tongue out of the way.
- Psychological factors such as anxiety and/or high levels of stress
- Poor bite
- Certain medications can cause bruxism as well such as SSRIs, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics.
- Excessive use of caffeine
- High consumption of alcohol.
The symptoms of grinding vary from person to person. Some may suffer from a sore jaw, worn and /or highly sensitive teeth, chronic headaches, gum recession, bone loss, implant failure and abfractions (notches and grooves on the teeth near the gumline). Others have no perceived discomfort. It might take a thorough dental examination to diagnose bruxism.
Treatment of the discomfort caused by grinding depends on the reasons behind the habit. The most important thing is to rule out sleep apnea first. If during the initial examination I observe some red flags (enlarged tongue, long soft palate that obstructs the view of the airway, narrow high-valued roof of the mouth, tongue tie etc) I would recommend for the patient to do a sleep study. In our practice we have 3 take home sleep appliances that are very easy to use. We recommend measuring the sleep for at least 3 nights for increased accuracy. The cost of all 3 nights is currently $190.
Once the sleep apnea is ruled out, the recommenced treatment for the grinding and /or clenching is prescription of occlusal splint also knows as a night guard appliance. Properly fitted, hard (not soft!) night guard does a wonderful job at absorbing the force and the pressure, protecting the teeth, preventing the bone loss, releasing the tension in the muscles, helping with headaches.
Practicing stress reduction, mindfulness, meditation and eliminating caffeine and alcohol from your diet can also be highly beneficial.
If obstructive sleep apnea is the confirmed cause of your bruxism, you will need to address that in order to reduce your grinding or clenching. For those with sleep apnea, night guard can make breathing situation worse! If in doubt, please reach out to me and let’s discuss if your night guard is helping or hurting you. Also see the sleep apnea page to read about the treatment options.
Watch the video below for more information and call (303) 499-0367 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bergan.