Have you ever experienced the lack of sleep because your loved one grinds his/her teeth loudly? Or you yourself are a teeth grinder and wake up every morning with a dull headache and jaw discomfort? Do not worry, you are not alone. Around 8 – 10% adults suffer from teeth grinding. Teeth grinding is a treatable condition and we are here to give you all the information you need in one place.
Teeth grinding (medically called bruxism) is the involuntary or habitual grinding and clenching of the teeth. When it happens occasionally, it does not do harm, but when it occurs on a regular basis it can severely damage teeth and cause other dental complications. Mild and occasional bruxism does not require treatment. However, frequent and severe bruxism may lead to headaches, earache, damaged teeth, jaw pain, etc. and must be treated.
Teeth grinding may occur unconsciously during the day, or at night (sleep bruxism). Sleep bruxism is a sleep-related movement disorder and such people are more likely to have other sleep disorders (snoring and sleep apnea). The problem with sleep bruxism is that people are unaware of it until complications arise.
Even though it is still not clear why bruxism occurs, possible causes of bruxism may be:
If it occurs during the day:
- Emotions such as stress, anxiety, anger, frustration or tension.
- It occurs when dealing with stressful situations and becomes worse during stressful periods.
- Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion).
- Hyperactive or competitive personality type.
If it occurs during sleep:
- It may be caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.
- It can also be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
- Stress or anxiety.
Therefore, it is extremely important to be able to recognize the symptoms of bruxism:
- A dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up.
- Your partner hears you grinding at night.
- Flattened, fractured, chipped or loose teeth.
- Worn tooth enamel.
- Increased tooth sensitivity.
- Tired or tight jaw muscles.
- Jaw or face pain or soreness.
- Pain that feels like an earache.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Indentations on your tongue.
If you suspect you may be a teeth grinder, visit your dentist to examine your mouth and jaw for signs of teeth grinding. Teeth grinding is harmful and must be treated because sometimes chronic teeth grinding can cause tooth cracking, loosening, or even tooth loss. It can also affect your jaw and even change the appearance of your face. Thus, definitely see your doctor or dentist if you have some of the symptoms mentioned.
To stop grinding your teeth, your dentist can provide you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding at night. Nowadays, there are many excellent mouth guards available. Your dentist will recommend the one that suits your needs best. If stress makes you grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist how to effectively reduce stress. Stress counseling, exercise program, a physical therapist or a prescription for muscle relaxation are some of the possible solutions. If teeth grinding is caused by a sleeping disorder, you should treat the disorder.
Other helpful tips that may help you stop teeth grinding:
- Reduce foods and drinks that contain caffeine (Cola, chocolate, coffee).
- Avoid alcohol because grinding intensifies after alcohol consumption.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything non edible because it makes your jaw muscles clench and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, try to place the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This will help your jaw muscles to relax.
Using these tips will take initiative to stop grinding your teeth and get rid of all these annoying consequences and possible threats to your dental health.