Teeth Grinding Symptoms & Teeth Grinding Treatment in NYC & Long Island
Grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep, often referred to as Sleep Bruxism, has afflicted mankind for centuries and is even mentioned in passages of the Bible! Though this human experience is ancient in its history and very common in society today, researchers are only now beginning to understand why this often-destructive activity occurs.
Teeth Grinding / Clenching Symptoms and Concerns Include:
- Extremely worn and flat teeth
- Destruction of tooth enamel to a significant extent
- Loose teeth
- Sore jaw muscles and jaw joints (TMJ)
- Jaw clicking, popping, or locking
- Jaw tightness
- Sensitive and painful teeth
- Overbuilt jaw muscles which can change one’ s physical appearance
Studies have suggested that teeth grinding or clenching during sleep is similar to other more familiar physical phenomena like sleepwalking, bedwetting and night terrors. These are all abnormal physical activities that occur during otherwise normal sleep patterns. Teeth grinding can vary in frequency from every night to once in a while and the symptoms and problems that emerge from this activity are quite variable as well. Because of this variability, dental professionals have struggled to have a full understanding of why teeth grinding occurs and why the symptoms experienced from this activity are so variable from person to person.
However, recent studies have suggested that night teeth grinding is possibly due to activities that “wake the brain up” (arouse the brain) during sleep. Unfortunately though, any number of things that can stimulate and awaken the brain at night may lead to teeth grinding. These include ( but there are probably countless others):
- Pain from a bad back or neck or any painful medical condition
- A crying baby
- An asthmatic cough
- Life tensions and worries
- Airway problems associated with sleep apnea
- A snoring partner
- A disruptive sleep environment
- Late day/ night alcohol and or alcohol use
As new insights are gained into why these problems occur and how to manage them, the care provided in my NYC and Long Island practice continues to evolve and produce satisfying results.
Teeth Grinding Treatment
In my office, Teeth grinding treatment focuses initially on trying to identify and then address the risk factors that are likely causing the brain arousal and the resultant aggressive contact of the teeth when you sleep. The successes that we achieve with this strategy requires our patients to be active participants, not just recipients of care. Participation may require changes in dietary selections, commitment to exercise and relaxation programs, improved sleep hygiene, co- operation from a snoring bed partner and or consultation with sleep physicians to fully assess the efficiency of your breathing while you sleep. These and other strategies go a long way in not only reducing the aggressiveness of sleep bruxism activity but in assuring that the more standard therapies we employ have their maximum effectiveness.
Common teeth grinding treatment options
Oral appliances: For years these devices have played a key role in reducing the impact of teeth grinding during sleep. Though these devices do not stop the teeth grinding activity, they essentially allow the grinding to occur in a more protective environment. Based on a patient’s history, symptoms and exam findings the choice of which appliance to use becomes clear. At times multiple appliances are alternated during the week to gain maximum benefit. There is no one appliance that fits all situations and therefore careful assessment and experience is necessary to get it right. Though many people are tempted to purchase over the counter night guards, these options come up short in terms of benefit and often create other problems. In the recent past, there has been a movement towards using oral appliances that ” open the airway” as a means of reducing sleep bruxism activity. Since at best there is only an association between airway problems and sleep bruxism, this treatment option should only be pursued after an overnight sleep test has been administered.
Beyond the use of oral appliances, medications continue to be utilized in an effort to control the forces of sleep bruxism. Muscle relaxants, along with anti- anxiety drugs seem to do the best job but are only moderately effective for short periods of time. Injections of Botox are also gaining popularity but must be viewed as a complementary treatment and again not a cure. Multiple injection sessions, however, will be needed to see real benefit from this injection therapy. Lastly, as our practice explores supplements and nutrition science, we anticipate that additional sleep bruxism remedies may be within our reach.
On the relaxation and meditation front, consistent practice of these mindfulness-based programs can be helpful, but not necessarily before bedtime. Incorporation of these strategies during the daytime hours seemingly sets the brain up for more restful sleep.
Is There a Teeth Grinding Cure?
Clearly we can’t say that there is actually a teeth grinding cure. However, after an evaluation is performed in my NYC or Long Island office, it likely that my experience will lead to offering a number of treatment strategies that when put in place will very likely reduce the consequences of your nightly teeth grinding.