Normally, our teeth only touch during eating and swallowing for a very brief time. Otherwise, you should not feel or catch yourself with your teeth together at all.
Teeth grinding and clenching are considered abnormal tooth-tooth contact. It can occur when you are awake or while sleeping. If it happens during sleep, it can be a form of sleep movement disorder.
Constant grinding or clenching can be detrimental to teeth, jaw muscles and the jaw joint. It can lead to aggressive wear and shortening of the teeth, broken teeth, broken fillings, jaw muscle pain, jaw joint pain and morning headaches.
Sometimes, you may hear your kids grinding their teeth during sleep. Sometimes, you may catch yourself with teeth together during work or driving. Sometimes, your partner may complain about the grinding noise. Sometimes, you may wake up with sore jaw muscles or joint. However, most of the time, you may be not aware of it.
Teeth grinding during sleep is associated with temporary awakening (microarousal) in your sleep. The exact mechanism and cause of teeth grinding and clenching habits are still being explored, but it is associated with the following in certain individuals:
- Medications such as some antidepressants
- Inadequate sleep, poor sleep quality, sleep disorders
- Sleep breathing disorders such as obstructive apnoea
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in kids
- emotional stress, anxiety, and tensions
- acid reflux
- chronic pain (back, neck, shoulder, knee)
- alcohol at night, excessive caffeine, and illicit drugs
- nutritional deficiency and dietary disturbances
How to protect your teeth if you are grinding?
Usually, during the dental examination, we screen our patients for grinding and clenching habits.
- Look for underlying causes
- Manage the underlying cause and symptoms
- Wearing a protective custom-made guard during sleep
- Training to keep your “lips together, teeth apart”