Do you often wake up with a dull headache? Does your jaw ever feel sore? Does your partner complain about strange sounds you make during sleep?
If you said yes to any of the above, you may be grinding your teeth at night.
Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a common occurrence in both children and adults. For some, it’s a minor annoyance that comes and goes. For others, it may become an ongoing, chronic condition.
Over time, teeth grinding may result in:
- Sore jaw or facial muscles
- Headaches and earaches
- Enamel erosion
- Tooth damage
- Hearing loss
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
What causes teeth grinding? Are certain types of people more likely to grind their teeth at night?
Read on to learn four surprising things teeth grinding might reveal about you.
1. You’re a High-Stress “A” Type Personality
Type A personalities are characterized by drive, ambition, and impatience. They’re aggressive, competitive, and have an unreasonable sense of urgency.
Because A types are so hard on themselves (and everyone around them), they’re prone to stress and anxiety. Researchers link Type A personalities to many stress-related ailments, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, they’ve also found a connection between high-stress personalities and teeth grinding. Studies suggest that people who are anxious and tense are more likely to grind their teeth at night.
2. You’re Not Getting Enough Air While You Sleep
Teeth grinding may also suggest that you’re having difficulty breathing when you sleep.
Throughout the night, your body cycles through light and deep stages of sleep. When your brain approaches the deepest sleep cycle, your entire body must “let go” and relax.
For some of us, this is a problem. Your tongue expands to nearly twice the normal size when it’s relaxed, which can obstruct your airway. Because your jaw is heavy, it can also reduce normal airflow.
Interestingly, researchers have found that people with partially blocked airways during sleep often grind their teeth. This causes tension in the tongue and jaw and allows them to breathe normally again.
3. You’re Emotionally Unstable
Even if you’re not a Type A personality, you may still be prone to occasional teeth grinding.
Researchers have noted that grinding seems to be more severe during prolonged periods of stress and anxiety. Anger, frustration, and intense concentration may also lead to teeth grinding.
In the medical community, teeth grinding has long been listed as a physical symptom of anxiety and stress. Those who seek treatment for teeth grinding often report feelings of tension, anxiety, or depression.
Because of this, research suggests a link between teeth grinding and negative emotions. Compared to people who don’t grind, those who do are more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression or other anxiety disorders.
4. You Have Crooked Teeth or an Abnormal Bite
Another common reason people grind their teeth is because of a physical defect. This could include missing or crooked teeth or a misaligned bite.
Children commonly grind their teeth when their baby teeth appear and again when their adult teeth emerge. It often stops once the adult teeth are fully in place.
If the adult teeth are misaligned, this could cause a slight shift in your bite and the way you chew. This places unnatural stress on the jaw muscles, which may pull your jaw out of alignment.
Grinding your teeth at night is your body’s way of trying to “fix” the problem. Unfortunately, it only makes it worse, since grinding can cause damage to your teeth and jaw.
What if You’re a Grinder?
While there’s no cure for teeth grinding, there are treatments available to help you manage it. These may include stress management, corrective dentistry, or wearing a plastic mouth guard while you sleep.
If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth at night, you should make an appointment with your dentist and express your concerns. He or she will examine your teeth and jaw for signs of grinding and prescribe the right solution for you.