While we all might struggle occasionally with lack of sleep and sleep disturbances, sleep disorders are long-term changes to your sleeping habits that can have a negative effect on your health. Sleep disorders are more common than you may think. It’s thought that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder, and many of us may not even realise that we have one.

One sleep disorder in particular that can take place without a person even knowing is sleep bruxism. You might have heard of bruxism, which is the excessive clenching or grinding of teeth during the day. Bruxism is a condition often put down to stress or an anxiety disorder, and people usually realise when they’re doing it, even if they can’t put a stop to the habit. Sleep bruxism, on the other hand, takes place while a person is unconscious, which can make diagnosis more difficult

Understanding Sleep Bruxism

So, what exactly is the cause of sleep bruxism? It’s thought that a combination of anxiety and stress, as well as alcohol consumption and smoking, are the main factors behind the development of the condition. If you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea, you’re also at a greater risk of developing sleep bruxism.

Sleep bruxism isn’t the most common of sleep disorders, with one study estimating that around 8% of adults grind their teeth at night. But that doesn’t make it any less of an issue to those that have it. Left untreated, sleep bruxism can cause damage to the teeth and lead to jaw joint disorders. People who have sleep bruxism may also experience headaches, jaw pain and ear pain, which over time can severely impact on quality of life.  

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Diagnosing Sleep Bruxism

In many cases, sleep bruxism is easily diagnosed by a dentist. If you visit the same dentist regularly, they will be able to detect any changes to your teeth and mouth and ask you questions to determine the underlying cause. You may be asked about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, such as jaw ache or headache. Your dentist might also ask about your sleeping habits, such as the times you go to bed and how long you usually sleep for, which can both play a minor part in sleep bruxism.

Your teeth will usually show the clearest signs of sleep bruxism. During the diagnosis process, your dentist may notice that your teeth appear flattened or worn, and you may have chipped or cracked teeth that you can’t explain.

Treating sleep bruxism

How your sleep bruxism is treated usually depends on the severity of the situation. Usually, it’s enough to offer you a fitted mouthguard or shield to wear overnight, which will prevent damage to your teeth from grinding. If your teeth have been affected badly by sleep bruxism, you may need to undergo a dental correction procedure to repair the damage.

Do you still have more questions about sleep bruxism? You can check out this post for a more detailed look at sleep bruxism and its causes.