How to stop grinding your teeth

ONear morning around week six of the COVID-19 lockdown, I woke up to discover that I had grinded a molar-sized crack in the back of my night guard, the device I wear for protection. teeth from the grinding I do when I sleep. . I’ve been wearing an acrylic fence nightly for years with minimal erosion, but all of a sudden I’m gnawing on it right away. Like many Americans who have spent the past few years wondering where the stress and fear that had built up in their bodies could go, the answer turned out to be my own mouth.

Since 2020, dentists and other oral health professionals around the world have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for problems caused by teeth grinding. ornate to refer to the grinding and grinding of teeth by force. Although bruxism is quite common, with pre-pandemic data showing that up to 31% of adults To some extent, some large clinics saw three times more staff than normal when they started closing. Some experts say the increase has not yet subsided. Mark Drangsholt, chair of oral medicine at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, said: “My patients have mild pain and bruxism that has gotten worse, and people I’ve never seen before are now doing it. hurt a lot. .

Most of people People with sleep bruxism and those with no symptoms may never even know they have it. Although experts often distinguish between nighttime bruxism, known as sleep bruxism, and daytime bruxism (awake bruxism), in many cases the line between the two is blurred. obscured by a combination of styles and behaviors.

Read more: Why not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep

Teeth grinding doesn’t always cause pain, but when it does, it can get worse. Certain patterns (especially constant squeeze), which can lead to chronic pain in the temporomandibular joint – TMJ for short – is found on each side of the face near the ear. These joints, often compared to hinges, allow the jaw to move away from the rest of the skull and be directly stressed by bruxism. People who grind their teeth regularly may experience TMJ problems including crackling or pain while eating, general aches and pains, and even underbite.

Then there’s the risk to your teeth. “Apart from the little time we spend eating,” says Drangsholt, “your teeth don’t really fit together much during the day. Even an hour of grinding at work is a huge amount of wear and tear, which can put you at risk of cracking or wearing down your teeth.

Bruxism addiction only becomes more dangerous when you step into bed. Have you ever watched videos of hippos eating whole watermelons like they were blueberries? It’s basically a human’s unconscious superpower. Drangsholt says: When we fall into REM sleep,, We are three times more likely to exert force with a bite than we are consciously able to do.

Teeth grinding has always been closely associated with anxiety in the dental world, and recent studies have begun to confirm the stories clinics have been telling about the outbreak of the pandemic. A small one paper published in 2021, a review of Turkish healthcare workers found that about a third of people with no history of bruxism began experiencing symptoms in the first months of the pandemic. . Again research When looking at worldwide Google Search trends, searches for bruxism, bruxism, and bruxism increased significantly between May 2020 and October 2020 compared to similar periods from 2016 to 2019.

Certain psychoactive drugs can also affect bruxism. Antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs can trigger the start of bruxism within a month of use, and is one of the first things Drangsholt says he asks new patients when assessing their symptoms. Most people who take antidepressants don’t develop bruxism, but “there seems to be a relationship for some,” he says. “That’s something we look at pretty closely, because if you can switch to or change your dosage, that could help.” Although the rate of new antidepressant prescriptions in the US reduce in the early months of the pandemic, the overall numbers for the past few years show keep increasing in a new prescription.

Read more: Feel so down? It could be “Around stress”

Michele Schultz-Robins, secretary of the American Academy of Oral Pain and a professor at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, says that other lifestyle factors may have impacted the number of cases of bruxism that are still occurring. increase she encounters. “COVID — it was crazy,” she said. For many years, adults and children were more confined to the home during the day: staring at small screens, working on the couch and in bed, and changing daytime postural habits in ways that may lead to tighter grip. “You’re holding your face differently,” she says. “Now you are constantly bending over and your jaw is not aligned properly, and you can start grinding your teeth. You get a little tense about it, and when you squeeze your temporal and masseter muscles, you get a headache. “

The impact of stress can be huge, she adds. Schultz-Robins said: “I ended up with a 17-year-old boy who couldn’t open his mouth beyond a finger because of the stress. “During COVID, he was the only one supporting his family; His parents have both been laid off. Schultz-Robins says she’s seen 6-year-olds in pain from excessive grinding.

This stressful psychological relationship can sometimes cause temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). difficult to treat. Something as simple as adjusting medication doses to improve symptoms requires communication and coordination between a psychiatrist and a jaw pain specialist, two specialties that don’t work very well together. However, successful treatment of TMD and bruxism varies from case to case, and a combination of approaches can be greatly beneficial in alleviating symptoms, Drangsholt says.

Psychologically, techniques such as attention, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other proven anxiety relief methods that can impact teeth grinding behaviors and TMJ pain, and are more accessible than ever thanks to online therapy options. Schultz-Robins says treatment should always start with a specialist in osteoarthritis. The specialist can offer more physical treatment options, such as oral exercises, night guards to prevent your upper and lower teeth from touching, and even anesthetic injection therapy. regularly to relieve severe pain.

“The most recently used, really great treatment is neurotoxins, or Botox‘ said Drangsholt. While this is a more expensive treatment reserved for the most severe cases, regular Botox injections every three or four months can make all the difference for some people. “They didn’t break the devices, and they didn’t have any cracks in the teeth,” Drangsholt said.. “We can reduce their muscle mass in a reversible way.”

As Schultz-Robins put it: “Does your jaw feel like you’ve had a party in your mouth all night? Do you have a headache when you wake up? “. These are the telltale signs of visiting a professional—namely a word category available on the American Academy of Orofacial Pain website — might be a good idea.

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