Nocturnal bruxism, an unconscious, intense and rhythmic movement of the muscles of mastication, which causes us to clench or grind our teeth while we are asleep, can appear or worsen due to multiple factors and improve by applying a series of preventive measures.
Bruxism can cause discomfort. Photo provided by DosFarma
Our bodies don’t always stay still while we sleep and can sometimes stay very active without us realizing it. And this happens with teeth bruxism.
In addition to the striking cases of sleepwalking that some people experience, there are those who talk in their dreams, snore or keep moving.
There are also people who are constantly grinding their teeth, a disorder known as nocturnal bruxismand because of which they clench their jaws inadvertently when they are asleep at night.
In adulthood, the bruxist habit can cause multiple problems depending on its frequency and intensity, such as wearing down the tooth enamel, jaw pain or dental, disorders of the temporomandibular joint (ATM) and headachesinforms the Clinic University of Navarra (CUN).
The TMJ works like a sliding hinge that connects the jaw to the side of the head. If bruxism is very intense, it can interrupt sleep, preventing its restorative and restful function, according to the CUN.
The stress and uncertainty caused by the covid-19 pandemic and the months of confinement have led to an increase in cases of this disorder, in which mental health plays an important role, according to the information handled by the platform of online pharmacy and parapharmacy DosFarma.
“Bruxism is an invisible disorder, but very common. It can become a real problem, but it’s hard to realize because we experience it without being aware of it. On the other hand, its consequences are very visible and can be serious, especially in the teeth”, he explains Amanda Dutruc, DosFarma pharmacist.
That is why it is always advisable to visit the dentist frequently, who will be able to determine if there is too much wear on the teeth and diagnose possible bruxism, according to this pharmaceutical expert.
“In this case, practicing relaxation and postural hygiene (maintaining the correct position of the body, in stillness or movement) and maintaining appropriate lifestyle habits will help improve the health of the jaw and muscles”, points out Dutruc.
Factors that affect bruxism
DosFarma’s team of pharmacists describes some of the factors more common that can cause bruxism to appear or worsen.
The tension that builds up in the body due to stressful situations can manifest itself by causing the person to grind their teeth.
Some people tighten their mouths without realizing it when they are concentrating deeply, and others, with a tendency to hyperactivity, cannot remain still and always have some part of their body in tension.
Bruxism can be a side effect of some medications, for example anti-depressants, while the consumption of alcohol, tobacco or energy drinks can promote or worsen it.
Dental problems or misalignment of the teeth cause a misaligned bite, which the person unconsciously tries to correct by trying to fit the teeth without success, constantly tightening and refreshing them.
Insomnia, and the stress it causes, as well as sleep apnea (repeated stopping of breathing) or night terrors (episodes of screaming, intense fear and shaking of the body while falling asleep) influence the tension of the jaw during the night.
Visit the dentist regularly
A common treatment when bruxism is diagnosed is the use of a discharge splint, a type of mouth guard that a person places over their dental arches and is designed to keep their teeth from bumping into each other. It can be custom-made or bought in a pharmacy (in the standard version).
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
It is important to reduce the consumption of these drinks and, in general, of any other substance that impairs a good night’s rest.
Leave the chewing gum
Chewing gum increases the load on the jaw and creates tension that the body can then release by grinding the teeth at night.
Reduce the bite
It is also advisable to control the habit of gnawing on an object (a pen, for example) when thinking and not to abuse hard or raw foods, which can increase jaw tension, or force the mouth to open wide (for example, some sandwiches).
The application of heat or cold (using special patches or bags that are placed in the microwave oven or freezer) helps to soothe and relax muscle discomfort, whether in the neck, back or jaw.
It is recommended to apply heat to relieve pain and muscle contractures (as long as there is no inflammation) and to apply cold (only when there is inflammation) to relieve pain and de-inflame the affected area.
Take care of the posture
Maintaining good posture during the day helps to relax the neck and back muscles, which often suffer from tension.
Stretching and relaxation
There is a wide variety of exercises that help loosen the muscles and can be practiced with the advice of a physiotherapist, who can also advise us on our postural hygiene, according to Dutruc.