Sleep Bruxism

Last updated: May 10, 2019

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Sleep Bruxism is a sleep-related movement disorder. It is a disorder where the patient grinds or clench his or her teeth. Although this is more pronounced when a person is sleeping, a person who suffers from Bruxism may unconsciously clench or grind his or her teeth while awake. This is why Bruxism can be classified as either Sleep Bruxism or Awake Bruxism.

Sleep Bruxism is often related to other sleep disorders. Those who have Sleep Bruxism often suffer from snoring and sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms of Sleep Bruxism?

Most of the time people who suffer from Sleep Bruxism are unaware of the issue. If that person sleeps alone there may not be anyone to tell them that they grind their teeth while they sleep. It is also possible for the symptoms of Sleep Bruxism to be misunderstood and confused with a grinding or clenching problem. Some are unaware that Bruxism is a sleep disorder. People often mistake Bruxism for a dental problem.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Bruxism include:

  • Excessive tooth wear. The top part or the biting surface of the teeth are often flattened due to the grinding motion. Patients may also experience other types of tooth wear such as abfraction. Abfraction is when notches appear around the neck of the teeth. These notches are often found at the gumline.
  • Tooth Fractures. When a person constantly grinds their teeth, this can result in tooth fractures. Oftentimes dental restorations such as fillings and crowns also get damaged because of bruxism.
  • Inflammation of the periodontal ligament.  The periodontium are special tissues that surround the teeth. They also provide support to the teeth. When the periodontal ligament gets inflamed, it may make them sore to bite on. This can also lead to the loosening of the teeth.
  • Grinding noises while asleep. This is the most obvious sign of Sleep Bruxism but is also the hardest to detect if the affected person sleeps alone. Most of the time the one who detects this is the person’s parent or partner. The noise caused by bruxism can be surprisingly loud. It can be unpleasant and can wake a sleeping partner. These grinding noises are often associated with sleep bruxism but not with awake bruxism.
  • Hypersensitive Teeth. When a person’s teeth are hypersensitive they may experience dental pain when drinking something cold. This hypersensitivity stems from the wearing away of the insulating layers of dentin and enamel around the teeth. Although these layers are thick, constant grinding may eventually wear them.
  • Hypertrophy of the muscles of mastication. Another sign of sleep bruxism is the increase in the size of the muscles responsible for the movements of the jaw. The masseter muscle is the most affected among these muscles. The constant movements of these muscles result in their development and the increase in their size.

What causes Sleep Bruxism?

The cause of Sleep Bruxism is unknown in most cases. However, it is widely accepted that it can be due to multiple possible causes.

Sleep Arousal

Sleep arousal is a sudden change in the depth of the sleep stage. It is often accompanied by an increase in heart rate, respiratory changes, and muscular activity. Evidence suggests that Sleep Bruxism is caused by mechanisms related to the central nervous system. These involve neurotransmitter sleep arousal abnormalities. A study showed that the majority of sleep bruxism episodes occur during sleep arousal. Arousals can occur up to 15 times an hour during sleep and are often accompanied by increased muscle activity such as in the jaw. This can be the source of teeth grinding.

Sleep arousals are typical to those who suffer from other sleep-related breathing disorders. If you suffer from snoring and sleep apne you have a higher chance of developing Sleep Bruxism. Bruxism may be an unconscious response to the collapsed airways caused by Sleep Apnea. The jaw muscles involuntarily tighten to prevent restrictions of airflow.

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Psychological Causes

Sleep Bruxism can also be a byproduct of mental disorders. It can also be caused by anxiety, stress and intense emotions. Sleep Bruxism is more common among people with personalities that are aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive.

Sleep Bruxism can also be a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety. This is similar to some people who unconsciously bite their lips or cheeks, or chew on objects while under immense stress.

In addition, some factors may increase your risk of Sleep Bruxism. These include:

  • Age. Sleep Bruxism is more common in young children.
  • Medications. Bruxism may be a rare side effect of antidepressants. Smoking and drinking caffeinated drinks or alcohol can increase the risk of bruxism.
  • Genes. Sleep Bruxism occurs in families. If you have family members affected with bruxism, you have a higher chance of having it too.

Is there a cure for Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep Bruxism is not treatable. However, there are ways to control its symptoms. There are also ways to minimize its damage, especially to the teeth.

Stress management can help relieve intense emotions. Since teeth grinding is often a response to stress, these can be avoided if a person has better control of their emotions.

Medications such as muscle relaxants can help reduce jaw muscle tension that leads to teeth grinding. These medications should be taken before bedtime.

The use of a mouth guard can also help prevent teeth grinding. It is important to get a mouth guard supplied by a dentist. This will ensure that the mouth guard is of the right size so you can avoid further damage to the teeth.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

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