If you were habitually grinding your teeth, you’d know about it. Right? Possibly not. In fact, over 80% of Bruxism sufferers do so subconsciously while they’re sleeping. Today I am going to discuss the signs and symptoms that can determine whether or not you affected by sleep bruxism—and what you should do if you are.
What is bruxism?
Before I get into whether or not you’re a secret sufferer, I should probably explain what bruxism is. The condition is effectively the clenching of the jaw and the grinding of the teeth. There are two forms of bruxism, and they each have their own characteristics. Awake bruxism is often described as tensing the jaw and clenching the teeth in reaction to various stimuli. Exactly what stimuli causes this form of bruxism is different on a case by case basis. Sleep bruxism is very similar. The clenching of the jaw muscles and the grinding of teeth simply occurs at night rather than throughout the day—and that makes things worse. You cannot take conscious action to control your teeth grinding because you may not even know that you’re doing it!
Bruxism is challenging precisely because it happens during sleep
Signs that you might suffer from sleep bruxism
This article is more concerned with sleep bruxism. After all, you’re a lot less likely to know that you suffer if it is occurring while you’re fast asleep! So, how are you supposed to know if you grind your teeth while sleeping? Let’s take a quick look at the signs you should look for.
If you share a room with another person or sleep in the same bed as your partner, they may well hear your teeth grinding during the night. While not every bruxism sufferer makes their condition audibly apparent, many do. Trust me; the noise is definitely distinguishable. For some, it may even be considered disturbing!
Worn enamel or sensitive teeth
By watching the video I linked above, I am sure you’ll have guessed one thing: all that friction cannot be good for your teeth! You’d be right. Your teeth are coated with enamel—the hardest substance in the human body—which protects the sensitive inner workings of your teeth. Through constant grinding, however, this enamel can be worn down at a much more rapid rate. Weakened enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity. If your dental health is otherwise pristine, this may be a sign that you suffer from bruxism.
Flattened, chipped or loose teeth
Of course, the enamel isn’t the only part of a tooth that can be affected by teeth grinding at night. The pressure can have less subtle effects on your teeth and gums. If you’ve noticed inexplicable changes in the structure of your teeth, then bruxism could be the cause. Things to look out for include:
- Flattened and worn down molars
- Chipped or misshapen teeth
- Unexplained loosening at the gums
- Snapped and cracked teeth
Bruxism, especially when it is untreated, can be extremely damaging to the gums and teeth. In fact, your dentist may be the first person to notice that you are suffering from teeth grinding while you sleep!
Effects of teeth grinding will be visible on the teeth.
Sore or aching jaw and facial muscles
Autonomous teeth grinding throughout the night affects more than just your teeth. Constant contraction and movement can cause your jaw muscles to fatigue. If you regularly wake with tired, painful jaw and facial muscles then you may suffer from bruxism. Of course, jaw ache is not always indicative of teeth grinding. It can be an easily recognizable symptom; especially if it occurs with regularity.
A Headache that stems from your temple
It may seem illogical that a headache that affects your upper cranial area would be caused by teeth grinding. However, bear with me. Try clenching or moving your jaw. You may feel the muscles in your temple at work. If not, try it again but place your fingers on your temples. The muscles in your face and around the side of your head all work in synchronization. The old adage about a frown using more muscles than a smile? That applies to teeth grinding, too!
Sleep bruxism can lead to sore jaw muscles and headaches
Damage to the soft tissue in your mouth
If you’ve ever accidentally bit your tongue or the inside of your cheek, you’ll understand what I mean by this. Your teeth are designed to cut and tear through food. That has an unfortunate side-effect for people who suffer from bruxism; your teeth also tear through the skin inside your mouth! If you often wake up with damage to your tongue, gums or cheeks, then you may be grinding your teeth and tearing up your mouth simultaneously!
What to do if you suspect that you suffer from bruxism
Your first port of call when you see signs or symptoms of bruxism is to work out how long you have had those symptoms for. If you’re an adult and you notice a cut on the inside of your mouth one morning, you’ve likely got nothing to worry about. If, however, you’ve noticed one or more of the symptoms listed above for a prolonged period then you should make an appointment with your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.
While there isn’t a whole lot that your healthcare specialists can do to treat your bruxism, they can offer advice on how to limit the damage that will be done to your teeth, typically by suggesting a mouthguard. While specialist treatment can be successful if the underlying cause of your bruxism is stress or something similar, it will likely do very little for those people who suffer with bruxism as a side-effect of another condition (such as sleep apnea) or as a natural instinct.
With that in mind, I decided that there must be another way. That’s why I began working on Sleeptrack.
As a long time sufferer of bruxism, I have always wanted to develop a fully functioning method of preventing night-time bruxism. Gum guards and oral devices have long been used to help reduce the long-term effects of teeth grinding. My approach is different. As somebody that has been overwhelmed by sleep bruxism, I understand that mouthguards merely prevent the damage caused by teeth-grinding; they do not cure the condition.
In order to condition you out of sleep bruxism via biofeedback, rather than just minimize the symptoms, I began working on Sleeptrack—a wearable device and application combo. By tracking, recording, and analyzing your sleep bruxism, my solution is designed to manage the side-effects of bruxism to try and reduce the chance of long-term damage.
If everything else you’ve tried has failed, don’t suffer in silence. Sign up to the Sleeptrack.io mailing list to keep updated on more bruxism management tips, Sleeptrack developments, and to be among the first to know when the device is ready to go!Do you have questions about this project ?
Get in touch: email@example.com @SleepTrackIO sleeptrackio
Project GoalsTo build an open-source wearable device and associated cloud services designed to analyze sleep bruxism and condition the wearer out of bruxism using biofeedback techniques.
Current Status 2016/12/18
- Changed approach to accelerometer/IMU only solution
- Built Phase 3 prototype with battery charging and IMU.
- Using a chin sensor to detect jaw movement.
- Device firmware working stably.
- Backend servers (collecting data from device) stable, deployed in a docker instance.
- InfluxDB and Grafana instances deployed.
- Angular front-end allows user to interact with device, start realtime mode, or night mode and view nightly stats.