Most (though not all) teeth grinding happens at night. That means it can seem like a bit of a mystery. You aren’t even awake enough to know when you’re doing it.
In our teeth grinding and sleep health blog, we have plenty of resources for you to find specific ways to address teeth grinding and learn about factors that might make grinding worse. But for fun, we thought we’d put together a list of some of the most surprising and interesting facts about teeth grinding that you might not know.
1. Childhood teeth grinding can spontaneously stop.
Childhood teeth grinding is common. So is grinding during adolescence. This often results from the irritation of adult teeth coming in, but it can also arise from the overall physical stress of a growing body. The body does a surprising amount of work during sleep. In fact, the body releases higher levels of growth hormones during sleep than it does during waking hours. And teenagers experience spikes in other sex-specific hormones as well.
Given that stress contributes to teeth grinding tendencies, it’s not surprising, then, that rapidly growing young people might grind their teeth at greater levels than adults do. What might be surprising is that more than half of the people who grind their teeth in childhood and adolescence will stop as they grow up.
2. Only some mouth guard designs help to prevent you from clenching.
All mouth guards (also called night guards or splints) are designed to protect your teeth from the effects of grinding. They do this by providing a barrier to cover either your upper or lower teeth. Most people choose an upper teeth guard, but lower guards are available for those with an easily triggered gag reflex or other issues.
These devices guard the teeth against friction and cushion them (and the gums) from pressure. But they don’t actually keep you from moving your jaw and clenching. To address clenching or jaw movement, you can try using an anterior bite plane or a repositioning appliance. These are generally used only for people who have pain and clicking due to TMJ dysfunction. And they have their own pros and cons that you should discuss with your dentist.
3. Botox can help lessen teeth grinding.
Many people don’t know that Botox is a treatment option for habitual teeth grinders. Botox for teeth grinding is a fairly new option. As such, there’s still research being done, and many insurance plans do not yet cover it. However, results have been promising in showing improvement in groups who received Botox over those who received a placebo.
If you are an aggressive grinder or your grinding habit is leading to pain, such as headaches or neck pain, it is worth considering Botox as one way to help address the issue. As always, there is a risk of an allergic reaction when trying something new. And as with any use of Botox, individuals can experience minor side effects in rare cases, such as a lopsided smile or slight muscle weakness. Fortunately, the effects of Botox are temporary, so these side effects will wear off fairly quickly.
4. Bad posture can contribute to teeth grinding.
Really? Slouched shoulders can make your grinding habit worse? The answer is yes. In fact, anything that can cause strain to certain muscle groups in the neck, head, and jaw, can contribute to teeth grinding.
Just like emotional stress increases teeth grinding, so too does physical stress. And having bad posture puts stress on certain areas of your body (often through the shoulders, upper back, neck, and head). That’s because you are not using your skeletal structure effectively to support the full weight of your head.
So, regularly checking how you’re holding yourself and doing exercises and stretches to help you improve your posture can actually help you address your teeth grinding.
5. Caffeine and alcohol make grinding worse.
Caffeine and alcohol both disrupt your sleep, and teeth grinding increases with disruptions to your sleep cycle. Caffeine’s adverse effects on sleep might be obvious because it’s a stimulant. But did you know that it stays in your body for hours, affecting you long after the initial energy boost? That afternoon coffee can still be at work in your system by midnight, keeping your body from settling into a deep sleep.
Because alcohol is a depressant that slows vital functions, many people assume that alcohol will improve sleep. Not so. Alcohol even consumed moderately, affects sleep cycles in adverse ways. Alcohol can make falling asleep easier but shorten the amount of REM sleep you experience during the night. It decreases the quality of sleep by causing more disruptions and less complete cycles. Regular alcohol use can even increase incidents of insomnia and daytime fatigue.
So, whether or not your grind your teeth, it’s best to keep your consumption of alcohol low and confine your consumption of caffeine to the morning if you want a good night’s sleep.
Hopefully, those five facts helped you understand a little more about the causes of and treatments for teeth grinding. Visit TeethNightGuard to find affordable custom night guards to protect your teeth and gums against the effects of grinding.
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