Many people deal with grinding their teeth on a nightly basis. Some may not even be aware they are doing it, but experience the effects, unsure of what the cause may be. Evidence of grinding can manifest itself in a number of ways including sore teeth, sensitive gums, worn teeth and fatigued facial muscles. It can also contribute to, or develop long-term into issues with the temporomandibular or jaw joint (TMJ) termed temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
So what causes teeth grinding?
The answer is a bit unclear as there can be one or many different causes. One of the most common is stress and anxiety, especially before bed. Medications can also lead to grinding at night. A class of medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), often used to treat depression and anxiety, is one of the greatest offenders. Common medications in this class are Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, and Celexa. The use of this medication has increased substantially in recent years, and studies now show a large increase in grinding in patients who take them. Any medication a person is prescribed must be evaluated as a possible cause. Also contributing to grinding can be missing teeth or an abnormal bite. This can lead to muscles being over activated, which then can present as grinding, among other issues.
What are some of the ways grinding can be decreased?
Limiting stress is one of the most effective strategies. Also, eliminating substances that can promote anxiety like caffeine and alcohol before bed can help. Another at-home remedy, a warm compress, can aid in relaxing the muscles making them less likely to be overactive at night. As mentioned before, medications should be evaluated by a doctor. If the grinding is severe, alternatives can be discussed. In rare cases, a prescription muscle relaxer can benefit as well.
If these efforts don’t decrease the grinding sufficiently, a night guard made by your dentist would be the next solution. While a night guard won’t necessarily eliminate the grinding, it will protect your teeth and muscles from the damaging effects.
In the end, the most important thing is to understand and diagnose if a grinding habit is occurring. In the long run, severe damage can occur to the teeth and muscles which can take great time and cost to repair. By diagnosing a grinding habit early, steps can be taken to eliminate it, or to at least keep it from having long-term, permanent effects.
Dr. Nick is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.