People aren’t exempted from moments of acute stress even during sleep, and it can manifest as harmful habits such as teeth grinding, or bruxism. In America, roughly 10% of the population grind their teeth at night. The health community views teeth grinding as a chronic problem. Aside from headaches and increased teeth sensitivity, teeth grinding can also induce temporomandibular disorders, which restricts chewing due to jaw muscle problems.
There are several factors you need to be mindful of to address the issue of bruxism. Reading about the causes we’ve listed here can hopefully give you some insights on how to remedy this condition.
Stress and anxiety
For senior citizens, stress and anxiety can manifest as physical effects like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems such as insomnia. Prolonged stress reactions can permanently affect physical stress responses such as teeth grinding.
Aging makes adults more susceptible to insomnia. To modulate daytime impairments like irritability and sleepiness, seniors with insomnia may find that clenching their teeth can ease away tension. While cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps seniors in correcting their beliefs about sleep to replace them with a more informed mindset, it is also crucial to recognize stressors in their daily life that might prevent them from sleeping well.
Additionally, taking up hobbies that promote rest and relaxation, such as cooking, gardening, or playing board games and solving puzzles, can also aid in managing instances of bruxism.
Mental health disorders
Bruxism is a central-regulated condition. The presence of mental health disorders can trigger bruxism once they cause changes in the regulation of the central nervous system. Though under recognized, bruxism is a prevalent issue among patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Because this is a progressive disorder that slowly destroys a patient’s memory, thinking, and visuospatial skills, treatments have to take a holistic approach.
The good news is that there is an increasing number of medical professionals who can help. Modern healthcare training for senior care specialists includes gerontology, which covers health promotion, disease prevention, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, pharmacological therapies, and exercise and rehabilitation of the aged, and mental health care, which covers the medical aspects of disability and positive psychology. This means that they don’t just tackle health-related challenges of older people— like teeth grinding— but also abnormal psychology. As there is an inextricable link between mental and psychosocial challenges and older people’s mental health, these professionals can treat patients using cognitive stimulation therapy. This improves memory, problem-solving, and social skills through group activities and exercises that can address teeth-grinding caused by mental health issues.
For patients with Alzheimer's, parafunctional activities are also common. Utilizing pharmacological therapies such as the regular injection of botulinum toxin, a protein that temporarily reduces nerve muscle movements, helps treat teeth grinding in Alzheimer's patients.
Underlying medical conditions
Bruxism can also underscore underlying medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease (PD), which is a progressive brain disorder that affects the nervous system. Its traits include motor symptoms like tremors and non-motor symptoms, like cognitive dysfunction, sleep problems, and pain.
About 46% of patients with PD experience awake bruxism, while 24.3% experience sleep bruxism. While it isn’t uncommon for patients with PD to involuntarily clench or grind their teeth, bruxism, in general, is also an under-recognized adverse drug reaction that’s distinctly associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Most PD patients are administered levodopa, which converts dopamine in the brain. One of the long-term side effects of this drug is oral dyskinesia, a disorder that triggers repetitive muscle contractions that are similar to bruxism.
You can take several actions to address bruxism. For one, you can undergo medical treatments that repair tooth damage and check for tooth erosions, or take drugs like clonidine, L-dopa, and clonazepam in safe doses to reduce symptoms.
Using a special mouth guard to wear at night can also alleviate symptoms. These are available in various thicknesses from 1.0 millimeter to 2.0 millimeters, and you can choose one depending on the severity of your condition. While mild cases of teeth grinding can use thinner night guards, more severe cases might need a thicker night guard made of durable material such as the ones we offer.
However, if teeth grinding is heightened by stress and anxiety, which manifests as a recurrent pattern, it’s better to enlist the help of therapy such as stress management therapy or CST. Generally, it’s crucial to remember that good sleep hygiene and regular exercise in aging, such as brisk walking or aerobics, have a positive effect on teeth grinding.
Understanding the factors that contribute to teeth grinding is the first step toward prevention. Any combination of the treatments and therapies discussed here can help you combat the risks of bruxism.
Written by Kristine Peys for shopremi.com