Many of us find ourselves reaching for a cup of coffee or tea to get us through the afternoon slump. As nice as the energy boost is, it turns out the daily habit may be causing us to grind our teeth at night — which can lead to morning headaches and lingering jaw pain. Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid by simply getting a little smarter about when we drink caffeine.
Teeth grinding (or bruxism) is when our teeth rub together as our jaw moves at the same time. Often we can do it in our sleep and not even be aware of it. About 8 percent of adults experience bruxism and its symptoms, including morning headaches, jaw pain, and tooth damage.
According to Martin Mendelson, DDS, the risk of developing bruxism can increase by consuming caffeine. It’s a prevalent stimulant in our everyday drinks, like coffee, tea, and soda. We typically drink them in the morning or as a midday pick-me-up, but that energy boost can last longer than we expect. “What some people don’t know is that caffeine has a half-life of three to 12 hours after it’s consumed,” Dr. Mendelson explained.
As a result, the caffeine can cause muscle movements within our jaw when we’re trying to sleep. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that adults who drank more than eight cups of coffee a day were more likely to develop bruxism.
While even the most avid coffee lovers probably wouldn’t think about drinking quite that much java, it does highlight how important it is to be smarter about how often and when we consume the beverage. The dental experts at Amherst Dental Village recommend not drinking anything caffeinated past noon because of those long-lasting side effects. For anyone who enjoys a warm cup of tea before bed, they suggest opting for a decaf version, like Taylors of Harrogate Organic Chamomile Herbal Tea (Buy on Amazon, $5.13).
Just remember, it’s worth avoiding that tempting 3 pm cup of coffee or can of soda each day to have healthy teeth and a great night’s sleep!
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