Things that go crunch in the night

Do you have a habit that no one knows about? Is it so secret that you don’t even know you do it? Teeth grinding or Bruxism to give it its proper name is a common problem.

Are You Affected by Teeth-Grinding?

With estimates of up to 31% of the population affected, it often only gets diagnosed at a dental appointment when the result of the grinding has created visible damage. If you are unfortunate enough to experience some of the frequent symptoms associated with grinding your teeth then you know that it can affect your quality of life.

Bruxism can not only cause dental problems such as tooth sensitivity, wear and tear and even fractures it can also cause headaches and pain in the jaw. As a large percentage of people aren’t aware they are doing it they don’t associate their symptoms with teeth grinding and so the behaviour goes unchallenged.

Categories of Teeth Grinding

Bruxism falls into two categories. The first occurs during sleep as is known as  Sleep Bruxism – the symptoms of which are usually more severe upon waking and get better during the course of the day.  The second category, Awake Bruxism occurs during wakefulness; the symptoms of which may not be apparent upon waking but get worse over the duration of the day.

Although the consequences of both sleep and awake bruxism are similar, it is widely thought that they have different origins. The reason why people grind their teeth isn’t clear although it is generally accepted that it may have multiple possible causes.

‘Awake’ Bruxism

Awake bruxism is often associated with the occurrence of stressful events and is more common in women. It more usually involves clenching of the teeth although grinding may occur as well. It is often classified as a semi-voluntary habit in the same vein as cheek biting, lip biting, nail biting or chewing on a pen or pencil.

‘Sleep’ Bruxism

Sleep bruxism is equally common in both men and women. Evidence suggests it may be caused by abnormalities involving sleep arousal and neurotransmitters connected to the central nervous system.

In one study of sleep bruxism,* over eighty percent of the episodes were linked to a sudden change in the depth of sleep. These changes were accompanied by increased heart rate, muscle activity and involuntary leg movements.

Other studies suggest that bruxism is linked to the central nervous system. The effects of dopamine altering medications are cited as evidence that disturbances of the dopaminergic system are to blame. This may explain why smokers are twice as likely to grind their teeth than non smokers as nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine.

It has also been suggested that there is a connection between the vagus nerve and tension in the neck and jaw. The vagus nerve is responsible for lots of tasks including heart rate, sweating and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth. It stretches from the medulla in the brain and passes through the skull down to the chest cavity where it branches off in multiple directions to stimulate organs and muscles.

Stress is a risk factor

However stress is generally considered to be one of the biggest risk factors in grinding teeth. Research suggests that people that grind their teeth respond differently to stress than non-grinders. Although the research connecting stress with awake bruxism is more robust than the research connecting it to sleep bruxism it has been shown that children with sleep bruxism are much more anxious than their non grinding counterparts.

If you suspect that you grind your teeth or maybe you have a partner that does, traditional treatment relies heavily on using mouth guards or splints in order to prevent the teeth connecting. This is obviously only really effective in sleep bruxism and can be uncomfortable for some people.

Hypnosis Teeth Grinding

Hypnotherapy May Help

As stress is thought to be a common factor in both types of bruxism, learning how to deal with stress could prevent a temporary short term issue from becoming a long term habit. If you feel that you need support in managing stress, then hypnotherapy may help.  If you’re not sure that hypnotherapy is for you, then why not buy our free download for bruxism and let us know how you get on.

*Macaluso et al