A new review of data further strengthens the link between alcohol, caffeine and tobacco as contributors to nighttime bruxism.

Bruxism is the clinical term for habitual, unconscious teeth grinding or clenching, and without treatment it may lead to premature teeth damage, recurring headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and other ailments. Those with sleep bruxism are also more likely to experience snoring and sleep apnea.

glasses of beer toasting

Risk Factors for Teeth Grinding

Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco have long been pegged as risk factors for bruxism; stress is another major contributor. A 2010 study found links between both smoking and chewing tobacco, and an increased risk for bruxism in young adults.

A 2013 research review examined bruxism’s relationship with drugs that have psychoactive effects. That analysis included tobacco as well as alcohol and caffeine, and it found independent associations with alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, where many previous studies linked tobacco use with another with another factor such as coffee intake or alcohol consumption.

Although we know that these and certain other drugs stimulate brain activity and can impair sleep when ingested soon before going to bed, scientists aren’t sure why they trigger teeth grinding and clenching. A new systematic review of existing research focused on better understanding the association between nighttime bruxism and specific drugs.

Bruxism: A Closer Look

The new analysis of data, which was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, looked at more than 800 studies on bruxism and focused on seven in particular in which the sample sizes spanned from about 50 to 10,000 adult participants.

Researchers found that sleep bruxism “was associated highly with alcohol and tobacco use.” The risk for nighttime bruxism seems to nearly double with regular alcohol consumption, and it more than doubles for regular smokers. The data also indicated that those who drink eight or more cups of coffee per day face a 1 ½ times greater risk for sleep bruxism than those who consume less.

Because many who suffer from nighttime bruxism aren’t aware that they’re grinding or clenching their teeth, you should talk to your dentist if you notice worn or damaged teeth, experience chronic teeth sensitivity, feel recurring pain in the jaw or face, or have difficulty opening and closing your jaw. It’s important to be honest about tobacco, alcohol and caffeine use in order to help your dentist devise a treatment plan and make recommendations based on your lifestyle.

Dangers of Bruxism

Bruxism is sometimes temporary, and short-term bruxism is common in pre-teen children. But bruxism that continues over the long term can cause severe dental problems.

Repeated teeth grinding and clenching can damage the enamel and surface of the teeth. It can also harm existing restorations such as dental crowns. Bruxism’s repetitive stress may lead to headaches, facial discomfort, as well as jaw disorders such as TMJ.

Nighttime bruxism can often be treated with a custom-made mouthguard. These comfortable, form-fitting appliances hold the jaw in an optimal position during sleep and prevent the physical damage caused by the forces of grinding and clenching.

Rockland County dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer has extensive experience helping patients treat bruxism and related conditions including TMJ and sleep apnea. If you live in the West Nyack, NY, area and would like to learn more about dental treatments for these ailments, please call B & D Dental Excellence at (845) 627-7645 to schedule your appointment.