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Why do some people suffer from bruxism? (uncontrolled teeth grinding)

Uncontrolled and untimely teeth grinding/clenching is a medical condition called bruxism. And for some people, it can cause real problems, like headaches, jaw pain, and chipped teeth. There are two types of bruxism:awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. As the terms suggest, awake bruxism occurs when people clench their teeth while awake, and sleep bruxism when they clench their teeth while asleep.

The main trigger for bruxism can be quite obvious:stress and anxiety are the main causes. But other factors may play a role. One of the main ones is the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, according to a systematic review of case reports published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice . There is indeed often an association between the two.

Smoking, drinking lots of caffeine or alcohol, and acid reflux can also increase a person's risk of bruxism. Despite suspicions that sleep apnea increases the risk of sleep bruxism, a 2020 article published in the journal Sleep and Breathing did not find a conclusive link between the two.

A real medical problem in some cases

Bruxism is a fairly common condition. About a third of adults suffer from awake bruxism and 1 in 10 from sleep bruxism. For many, this is not really a medical problem. But for some, it can cause neck pain, jaw pain, headaches, receding gums, and tooth damage that may require crowns or tooth extraction.

Why do some people suffer from bruxism? (uncontrolled teeth grinding)

The nerves in the teeth can be so irritated that root canal treatment is sometimes necessary. These symptoms are usually associated with sleep bruxism rather than awake bruxism. The treatment of awake bruxism is simpler; it is based on conscious conditioning. Patients can also work with a psychologist to identify what triggers teeth grinding and improve stress management.

It is, however, impossible to notice and therefore consciously stop the tightness during sleep. Treating sleep bruxism requires different techniques. First of all, it is recommended to wear a mouth guard. It won't stop the grinding, but it can protect the teeth and jaw muscles. If the person is taking SSRIs, they may need to switch to another type of antidepressant. And if the pain is severe, patients may be prescribed muscle relaxants to take at night, or they may opt for Botox injections into the facial muscles to help them relax.