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Teeth grinding in sleep damages enamel

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Each one of us is unique in the way we sleep. Some of us fall asleep the moment we hit the bed, some keep tossing and turning before actually falling asleep, some of us like to sleep flat on the back, some can only sleep on the side, some others curl up like babies, some keep moving their legs, some others keep grinding their teeth and so on. While almost all of us do a little bit of all these things when we are half asleep or fully asleep, we don’t overdo it and so tend to remain within physiological limits.

Tooth grinding (bruxism in medical parlance) is one such habit, which is a nuisance in most cases but quite damaging at times. Damage to the enamel that protects all the inner structures of teeth is a complication of teeth grinding. It can also cause jaw muscle discomfort or spasm leading to damage of the temporo-mandibular joint.


Why do some people grind their teeth while they are half or fully asleep? There is no clear-cut answer to this question but a common thread that runs through them is a stressed-out personality leading to psycho-somatic disorders or even anxiety neurosis in severe cases. Counselling is often called for in order to get to the underlying cause of the anxiety disorder. Unless the root cause is addressed, the problem is bound to remain.


Subjects can be trained to avoid repetitive compulsive movements in their wakeful hours. Many of them fidget a lot like tapping their fingers on table tops, drumming aimlessly whenever they get a chance or even an excuse, cracking their knuckles, bumping onto others, picking up arguments on small things and so on. Signs and symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) may be seen in some, for which more professional psychiatric care is indicated.


Last but not the least, a properly designed mouth guard is a must while going to sleep so that the subjects don’t damage their enamel any further or even bite their tongue inadvertently. Mouth guards must be customised for a given case lest they damage other structures in the mouth


(WebMD accessed 24 January 2019).

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