Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is a common behavior found in many adults and children. While occasional tooth grinding may not cause any serious issues, chronic grinding can lead to numerous dental problems, including worn-down enamel, loose or missing teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding usually occurs during sleep, though some people grind their teeth during the day. If it’s affecting your quality of sleep or causing pain, it may be time to see a doctor.
Why Do I Grind My Teeth?
It’s not entirely clear why some people grind their teeth, although stress and anxiety are often linked to the behavior. Genetics also may play a role—some people are more prone to bruxism due to an inherited muscle or jaw structure problem. In serious conditions, bruxism may be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or it may be a side effect of certain medications.
What Are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?
The most common symptom of teeth grinding is waking up with a dull headache or sore jaw. Other symptoms include:
- Sensitive teeth
- Facial pain
- Tightness in your jaw muscles
- Loose teeth
- Worn-down teeth
If you suspect that you have bruxism, see your dentist right away for an exam. Your dentist can help diagnose the condition by checking for signs of wear on your teeth, as well as observing your mouth and jaw for symptoms of grinding.
Long-Term Side Effects of Teeth Grinding
If left untreated, teeth grinding can cause long-term damage to your mouth. Over time, the pressure of grinding can wear down tooth enamel and cause teeth to become shorter, resulting in sensitivity and poor future restorability, it can also lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, a painful jaw condition that affects your ability to chew and talk.
How Can I Treat Teeth Grinding?
Treatment for bruxism depends on the severity and cause of the problem. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms. These include avoiding alcohol and caffeine late at night before bedtime, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga, getting regular exercise, managing stress levels, and using a mouth guard for nighttime teeth grinding. In more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help relieve anxiety or muscle tension that contributes to bruxism.
If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth at night (often referred to as sleep bruxism), there are some practical steps you can take to help prevent further damage:
- Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga before bedtime. This helps reduce stress levels which can lead to teeth grinding.
- Wear a custom-fitted night guard while sleeping. This can help reduce the amount of pressure placed on your teeth, jaw, and muscles when you grind your teeth at night. Contact your dentist to have a night guard made specifically for you.
- Avoid any activities that may trigger teeth grinding such as eating hard foods or chewing gum.
- Ask your dentist about using a muscle relaxant before bedtime. This can help reduce the tension in your jaw muscles that may be causing bruxism.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine can make it harder to relax at night, which may lead to teeth grinding.
- Avoid alcohol when you can. Studies have shown alcohol can increase your risk for bruxism and make it more difficult to manage the underlying causes.
- Talk to your doctor or dentist to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing bruxism, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- If all else fails, consider seeking professional counseling to address any underlying psychological issues that may be contributing to chronic tooth grinding.
Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding can help you prevent long-term damage to your teeth. With the right treatment, it’s possible to reduce or even eliminate bruxism altogether. If you think you may be grinding your teeth while sleeping, talk to your dentist.
Salling and Tate Dentistry is here to help you understand teeth grinding and find a solution that works for your individual needs. We offer comprehensive dental care, so feel free to ask us any questions about your oral health during your visit. Together, we can keep your smile healthy and strong! Visit our website sallingandtate.com or call 910.256.9040.