Stress wreaks havoc on your teeth. All that pressure and grinding wears down not only the surface, but the bone and connective tissue too. This leads to the loss of teeth, and some pretty unsightly cosmetic concerns when the grinding occurs in the front of the mouth. This month, we’d like to fill you in on the reasons scientists believe we grind our teeth, and what you can do to protect your chompers from wearing away to nothing-ville. Trust us, your face and jaw will thank you for acquiring this knowledge!
Why We Grind Our TeethIt would be nice if there were a single reason for teeth grinding (bruxism, as it’s officially known), but researchers, physicians generally agree there are multiple causes – often within a single patient. Here are the big three:
- Stress: We’ve all heard the familiar refrain that to live a healthy life, we need to reduce the level of stress in our lives. While science isn’t exactly clear as to why daytime stress causes one to brux at night, daytime bruxing often occurs as a person anticipates and experiences stress. There’s a big difference. Some researchers believe the stress causing us to clench and grind at night is actually due to the body’s response to the blocking of our airway.
- How about Bite?: At one time it was believed the main reason for bruxism was a bite that didn’t fit together well. As science has advanced, however, the majority of doctors believe it to be of minimal consequence – particularly given that even people without any teeth at all can still be bruxxers!
- Certain Medications and Foodstuffs: There is conflicting research regarding whether or not prescription medication can contribute to nighttime bruxism. On the other hand, the over-use of caffeine, and products containing stimulants (like tea and chocolate) have been shown to interfere with sleep and prompt bruxism. Alcohol as well is another common trigger.
- Genetics: Yet another thing to blame on our parents? Turns out, our genes may make us predisposed to bruxism. Perhaps that’s tied to this idea of our blocked airway? That’s biology, after all. Maybe you could become a researcher and help everyone figure this all out!?
Protecting Against BruxismSo, how do you lessen the damage bruxism can do to your mouth?
- Consult with a Loved One: First, find out if you’re a nighttime bruxxer. Often the only way we know outside of a visit to the dentist is if we ask our partner sleeping next to us! So, ask them: Do they hear your teeth gnashing at night? Do they ever hear you snoring, or wake up suddenly gasping for air?
- Reduce Stress: No matter what, reducing stress is always a good thing, and there are countless ways to do go about it –some as simple as chewing gum!
- Consider a nighttime appliance: If you find out you’re a bruxxer, visit your dentist and speak with them about corrective options that may be available to you. There are mouthguards and “splints” that can help you from grinding your teeth down to nothing, and when worn according to a doctor’s prescription, can also help reduce headache and jaw tension.