Sleep is an important activity. It revives, refreshes and reenergizes. The symptoms of a sleep disorder are often obvious during the day; however, a not so evident symptom is often overlooked: grinding of the teeth.
A recent CNN Health article described how teeth grinding can be a symptom of a sleep disorder. The article detailed how a teenager's lifelong teeth grinding or bruxism lead him to be evaluated by a sleep specialist.
Sleep-related bruxism is the medical name for teeth grinding during sleep. Nighttime teeth grinding wears down teeth, causes headaches, leads to jaw and facial soreness, can chip enamel and cause teeth sensitivity. Sleep-related bruxism can also cause interrupted sleep and drowsiness during the day.
The teenager highlighted in the article had extensive wear on his teeth. His grinding was so loud that he was given a room farther away from other family members so that he could no longer disturb their sleep.
Scientists have yet to determine why teeth grinding occurs, but they have pinpointed what causes someone to grind their teeth. Stress, anger, earaches, nervousness and misaligned teeth are leading causes of bruxism. Certain medications and medical conditions can lead to the development of teeth grinding such as cerebral palsy and hyperactivity.
The young man in the CNN Health article was experiencing bruxism because he was stressed about getting into college, school work and extracurricular activities.
Everyone is susceptible to teeth grinding, especially children. Bruxism affects approximately 14% to 17% of children; however, most children outgrow the condition. Grinding that does not improvement or disappear as a child grows may be a sign of an underlying medical or sleep condition.
Grinding can be a symptom of sleep disorders such as: obstructive sleep apnea and confusional arousals. Once the underlying sleep condition is treated the grinding should stop.
A sleep specialist may have to rule out other conditions that may appear to be bruxism such as: partial complex seizures (epilepsy), nocturnal tongue biting (facio-mandibular myoclonus) and sleep disordered breathing.
Bruxism is a treatable condition. Most cases of teeth grinding have no ill effects. Untreated bruxism can cause permanent damage to the teeth.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.