A recent medical report has indicated that about one in four people with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) suffer from teeth grinding, particularly nocturnal bruxism, and it is more common in men. Evidence shows that stress and anxiety play significant roles in this growing problem.
Figures produced by British dentists say teeth clenching and grinding is on the rise. In fact, they report a 30% increase in bruxism over the last 5 years. Many dentists blame stress and the inability to cope with it. They say that whist we sleep, a lot of our worries – even if they are only in our subconscious mind – can lead to clenching and teeth grinding.
Bruxism however is not confined solely to OSA sufferers and some studies have suggested that as many as 10% of the total population may be affected. This figure may be significantly higher as many cases of bruxism, just like sleep apnoea, are not reported.
Colgate, a leader in the toothpaste industry, recently posted on their blog the top three ways to treat Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding. The three highlighted solutions were to talk to your dentist about jaw alignment, get a mouth guard and to let go of negative stress.
The article goes on to state that “stress, anxiety, smoking, heavy alcohol, caffeine, depression and sleep disorders are all possible causes of teeth grinding according to the Bruxism Association”.
The Bruxism Association also explains that the most common symptom of teeth grinding is a headache. Other symptoms may include muscle aches, enlargement of facial muscles, discomfort of the jaw and stiffness in one’s neck or shoulders.
Sufferers of bruxism may experience eroded enamel, making teeth vulnerable to tooth sensitivity. Although Colgate offers special toothpaste for sensitive teeth, they hope to educate readers so that their teeth do not become eroded.
One of the easiest solutions recommended by the Colgate article to eliminate Bruxism is the use of a mouth guard, also known as a night guard that is specifically used to prevent teeth grinding. When purchasing a night guard for teeth grinding, their recommendation is that it is important to get one that can be moulded for your specific teeth.
Although a relationship has been established between bruxism, sleep apnoea, and stress, many dentists are also noticing that teeth grinding is a problem among people who have narrow arch width, especially in the upper jaw. Dentists say correcting the arch has been known to help with both grinding and the recurrent risk of sleep apnoea. Studies out of the University of Montreal indicate that a narrow arch is a “primary risk factor” for bruxism in children and adults.
Grinding teeth can lead to enamel erosion, which in turn can lead to cavities, so it is something that dentists are always looking for when people come in for regular check-ups. Grinding and clenching teeth can happen unconsciously and cause a range of problems.
The signs and symptoms of bruxism can be subtle and may include:
- Audible grinding or clenching at night, usually noticed by a partner
- Flattened, worn or chipped teeth* Sensitive teeth – especially to hot or cold food
- Facial pain or headaches in the temple region
- Increased yellowing of teeth as the enamel is worn away
- Sore or tight jaw muscles
- Earache – even though the ear is not affected, jaw problems can present with ear symptoms.
Doctors and dentists don’t fully understand why some people are “bruxers” and others aren’t, but if you suffer this way then take you should take the right steps immediately with a customised night guard before the problem gets worse – and also gets much more expensive.