Do You Grind Your Teeth?
SINCE ancient times people have been grinding their teeth when under stress. The Bible frequently uses grinding, or gnashing, of the teeth to denote rage or anguish. (Job 16:9; Matthew 13:42, 50) In today’s angry and stress-filled world, millions of people literally grind their teeth, and most are unaware of doing it. They may be wearing their teeth away.
Why do some people grind their teeth? The causes are complex and not yet fully understood. But in some cases emotional stress stands out as a likely culprit. The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter points out: “People who grind their teeth often report that they are undergoing marital or financial difficulties, taking final exams, fearful of losing their jobs, or otherwise under pressure.” Other possible causes and contributing factors include faulty contact between upper and lower teeth, sleep disturbances, or alcohol consumption. Therefore, the Wellness Letter suggests that sufferers try to cut down on alcohol; take simple steps to relax before going to bed, such as enjoying a warm bath; or talk out distressing problems with a friend or a trusted counselor.
During the day you may catch yourself gritting your teeth or rubbing them together. But how can you know if you do this in your sleep? Sometimes chronic grinding, known as bruxism, produces a sound loud enough to awaken someone else sleeping in the same room. You may wake up with a headache in your temples, or your jaw may make clicking noises.a Your dentist may even notice excessive wear on your teeth. He can recommend measures to provide some relief, such as an appliance to place over your teeth at night. Although a mouth guard like this is not designed to stop you from grinding, it can protect your teeth from further damage. In any case, relax! The less you worry, the less you may grind your teeth.
a For further information, please see the June 22, 1991, issue of Awake!, pages 20-2.