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Grinding Your Teeth at Night: What Causes It and How To Prevent It

May 15th, 2020

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is when you clench or grind your teeth unconsciously. According to the Mayo Clinic, bruxism is a movement disorder that can be caused by a combination of physical, genetic, and psychological factors.

Bruxism is a fairly common disorder that tends to be more prevalent among children than in adults. A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston Dental clinic showed that 38 of participants aged 17 or younger clenched their teeth at night, based on self-reported questionnaires filled by their parents.

Most people who clench or grind their teeth do so at night. However, awake bruxism (grinding your teeth during the day), is also common among adults who experience a lot of stress.

What Causes Bruxism

Experts don’t fully understand what causes teeth grinding, though a number of internal and external factors can make you more likely to brux. In children, bruxism usually begins when the first few teeth start to erupt. Experts believe that babies and toddlers sometimes grind their teeth as a pain response from teething, like when you rub a sore muscle with your hands.

Children and adults can also clench their jaws when their top and bottom teeth are not aligned properly, which is called an occlusal discrepancy. Bruxism can also be a side effect of some medications like certain antidepressants or antipsychotics. Additionally, several studies have linked chronic stress and anxiety to adult teeth grinding.

Exposure to certain substances, including alcohol, cigarette smoke, and caffeine, has also been shown to increase your risk of grinding your teeth at night. In fact, in a systematic review of studies looking at night-time bruxism found that the odds of developing it were two times higher for people who drank alcohol and for those who smoked cigarettes. The odds were 1.5 higher for people who drank more than eight cups of coffee a day.

Some neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s disease are also associated with teeth clenching. Experts suggest that these abnormal jaw spasms can be caused by malfunctions in the direct and indirect pathways of the basal ganglia. Sleep apnea and snoring may also trigger bruxism on some people.

Treating and Preventing Bruxism

While bruxism is not a dangerous condition in and of itself, clenching or grinding your teeth repeatedly can cause oral health issues. Severe and chronic teeth grinding, for example, can result in fractured teeth or tooth loss. Frequent grinding can also wear down your teeth, creating a need for implants, root canals, and other dental procedures. People who have bruxism can also suffer from earaches, headaches or migraines, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), and disrupted sleep.

There is no cure for teeth grinding, but managing stress is one of the best approaches for treating and preventing it. Several strategies for managing and avoiding bruxism, include:

Using a night guard: a custom-fitted appliance that you wear at night over your top teeth won’t stop you from clenching your teeth but can protect them from the constant grinding and rubbing that happens when you brux during sleep.

Taking a bath before bed: any technique that can help you relax your jaw muscles before bed, including taking a warm water bath or shower, may be useful for preventing teeth grinding. Applying a warm washcloth on your cheeks or even using a heating pad in the lowest setting can also help.

Avoiding alcohol and caffeine: research shows that excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption can increase your risk of grinding your teeth at night. If you are susceptible to bruxism, avoid drinking coffee or alcohol in the evening.

Some experts believe that sleeping better at night can also help you improve or prevent teeth grinding, especially if you usually go to bet stressed or anxious, as many of us do. Having good sleeping habits like keeping your bedroom or sleeping space clean, quiet, and at an appropriate temperature can help you to sleep better at night. Daily exercise, mindfulness meditation, and relaxing night-time rituals like breathing exercises may also help.

For people who toss and turn all night but don’t want to experience the side effects involved with prescription sleeping pills, a natural supplement can potentially help them reset their internal clock, reestablish healthy sleep patterns, and improve sleep quality. Some science-backed ingredients that are known to promote sleep are:

Valerian Extract: an herbal remedy extracted from the perennial valerian plant, valerian extract is commonly used as a natural treatment for sleep disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and restlessness. Research suggests that valerian might reduce the amount of time needed to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. One of the benefits of taking a valerian extract for sleep is that it doesn’t cause morning grogginess or difficulty to wake up.

Melatonin: melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is closely tied to your sleeping patterns. As people age, their melatonin production declines, and it gets more challenging to fall asleep. Melatonin is a popular ingredient in sleeping aids because it can shorten the time needed to fall asleep and even improve the symptoms of jet lag.

Magnesium: magnesium is an essential mineral used in over 600 biochemical reactions throughout the body. Magnesium supplements have been shown to offer a variety of benefits, including a better mood, improved migraine symptoms, and a greater ability to stay asleep during the night.

Hops extract comes from the flowers (seed cones) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. Hops has long been recognized for its relaxation and calming effect. Studies suggest Hops extract may help to improve sleep quality, shorten time to fall asleep and improve sleep brain wave patterns.

Zizyphus Jujube extract is a fruit most frequently used for sleep problems in Traditional Chinese Medicine with little side-effects. It is also used for purposes related to gastrointestinal health and digestion and is also known for its relaxation and calming effect.

Glycine is an amino acid that enhances sleep and supports whole-body health. Early research on glycine and its essential role in sleep was published in 1989 and later in 2008. One of the ways in which glycine aids in sleep was clarified when it was discovered that glycine is responsible for the profound muscle relaxation that occurs during various stages of REM sleep. In another study, glycine improved sleep efficiency, reduced difficulty in falling asleep and enhanced sleep satisfaction.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCL) Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCL) helps your body convert food energy into glucose, metabolize fats and proteins, and ensure proper function of your nervous system. With these various effects, there are ways in which your vitamin B-6 status may cause or contribute to your sleeping difficulties, or insomnia. Pyridoxine is considered adequate for neurotransmitter production to support sleep. Studies show that vitamin B6 positively impacts aspects of sleep and is essential for promoting and maintaining a good mood.

Taking a comprehensive natural sleep supplement containing the above mentioned ingredients in the right amounts shown in clinical studies to be beneficial to sleep, will help you reach the stages of DEEP SLEEP and help prevent night-time teeth grinding.

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