In my practice, I often evaluate and treat patients who suffer from the effects of Sleep Bruxism. Bruxism is the clinical term for the act of clenching and/or grinding your teeth while you’re asleep.
Sleep Bruxism can cause all kinds of problems for people of any age. Most of the patients who end up in my office complain of some, or all, of the following issues, particularly in the mornings:
- Jaw soreness or pain
- Limited or stiff jaw motion
- Headaches or earaches
- Sensitive teeth
- Jaw noises of all types
- Locked jaw
- Neck pain
- Foggy brain
- A bite that feels off-balance
Although millions of people grind and clench at night, not everyone ends up with these problems. For those who do, the need for care is critical because the potential long-term consequences of untreated Sleep Bruxism can be profound. They include, but are not limited to, a change in your facial profile, worn-down or fractured teeth, persistent jaw pain, headaches focused in your temples, jaw clicking and popping, and a locked jaw.
For many years, those of us in the field have felt that the primary fuel powering Sleep Bruxism is stress. As more research is performed and as practitioners like myself identify common risk factors, that thinking is changing. Life’s stresses cause adrenaline to be dumped into your bloodstream, which that can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep – and cause you to grind and clench your teeth.
However, there are other risk factors out there that can awaken your brain at night and fragment your sleep. Here are a few:
4 Surprising Reasons You Grind Your Teeth
1. ADHD Medication
More and more teens, college students and adults are turning to ADHD drugs to address daily focus issues. These medications, such as Strattera, Vyvanse, and Adderall, may be prompting new and/or higher levels of tooth grinding and clenching at night because they work to activate the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism.
For example, I’ve seen patients who were previously treated for Sleep Bruxism, had it under control but began experiencing symptoms again when they started taking ADHD medication. In the absence of other new risk factors, if you are on these medications, consider them when searching for the cause of your Bruxism.
Certain SSRI antidepressants (such as Effexor and Paxil) can initiate Sleep Bruxism activity, too. Up to fifteen percent of people who are on SSRIs experience it, and many new studies have begun in this area.
If you’re on SSRIs and are clenching and grinding your teeth at night, consider trying a different drug.
3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Upper Airway Resistance
According to the American Sleep Apnea Organization, over 22 million Americans have an upper airway problem. The telltale signs are snoring and multiple awakenings during the night as the body attempts to get more oxygen. The lack of oxygen and subsequent constant brain arousals activate the sympathetic nervous symptom and may be another potential initiator of Sleep Bruxism. Though there is not a one to one correlation between Apnea and Bruxism, additional investigation and collaborations with sleep physicians may be warranted.
If you suspect you have an airway problem (if you don’t know, ask your significant other) it’s essential to have a sleep study performed – mainly because it allows your dentist to choose the correct an oral appliance for you.
If you’ve kept your eyes open, you’ve noticed many people walking around using vape pens, some of which contain high amounts of nicotine, a powerful stimulant. Although the impact of nicotine on muscles, the nervous system, and sleep varies from person to person, it is indisputable that stimulants can and do influence jaw muscle pain and tension and can also disrupt sleep. For many people, nicotine adds to their already troublesome Sleep Bruxism and its resulting symptoms.
If you are using high nicotine vapes, please let your dentist or doctor know as you work through finding a solution for grinding and clenching.
In conclusion, if you’ve been waking up in the morning with a stiff, painful or locked jaw or if you experience morning headaches, sensitive teeth, earaches, a bite that feels off-balance, or your jaw clicks – there’s a good chance you have Sleep Bruxism.
See your dentist and discuss the risks factors that you can identify, especially those above. There are many effective avenues of treatment available to you.
You deserve a good night’s sleep!
For more on the long-term effects of Sleep Bruxism, link here.