Teeth Grinding Guide, Causes and Solutions
Are you one of those that grind your teeth or clench your jaw as I do. Repetitive grinding, however, is not a regular habit that our teeth are made to withstand. This chronic behavior is known as bruxism, a common habit that can occur at night or during the day. Unfortunately, untreated teeth grinding can have serious, lasting effects on your oral health. Review our teeth grinding guide for early detection of bruxism, which is the key to help prevent pain and significant damage to your mouth.
Teeth Grinding Guide created by Schererville Family Dentistry.
Here’s a look at the common signs of bruxism, the effects of chronic grinding, and what you can do to stop it.
Bruxism and its impact on your health can, over time, take a toll on your oral health as well as overall health. One of the most common complications of bruxism is damaged teeth, as persistent grinding can wear down the outer enamel layer of a tooth. This can lead to increased sensitivity of the tooth and even decay. In some cases, the excessive pressure from grinding may wear enamel so severely to result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth.
It is also not uncommon for ongoing clenching and grinding to place excessive pressure on the jaw, which contributes to disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). As a result, you may experience pain in the jaw joint, difficulty chewing, and a clicking sound when opening or closing the jaw.
Identifying teeth grinding symptoms. Pinpointing the exact cause of your teeth grinding behavior can be difficult, but signs of bruxism are usually clear. Most often, teeth grinding occurs unknowingly during sleep. For this reason, many people who have sleep-related bruxism aren’t even aware that they grind their teeth unless otherwise informed by a sleep partner. For others, a dentist may detect worn or fractured tooth enamel during a routine dental exam.
The following telltale signs may signal that you are habitually grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw:
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth that is loud enough to wake your sleep partner
- Trouble sleeping or interrupted sleep
- Headaches that start at the temples, especially upon waking
- Pain that radiates from the ear, but is not related to an actual earache
- Teeth that are increasingly sensitive to hot and cold foods or drinks
- A sore or tired jaw
- Damage to cheek inner lining from chewing
- Increasingly worn teeth, including flattened cusps and loose teeth
Bruxism causes and what you can do. The exact cause of bruxism is uncertain and varies for each individual. For many adults, teeth grinding is correlated to times of stress. Intense feelings of anger and anxiety may even exacerbate the grinding behavior. Having a family history of bruxism may increase your risk for teeth grinding, as will taking certain medications, such as antidepressants.
Others may experience chronic clenching or grinding due to an abnormal bite — when your top and bottom teeth do not properly align. Similarly, having teeth that are missing or crooked can trigger clenching or grinding.
For many people, putting an end to teeth grinding or clenching is difficult when it occurs during sleep. If stress is to blame for your bruxism symptoms, you may be able to reduce stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques. Most often, professional treatment from a dentist is the best way to prevent bruxism and correct damage caused by grinding. A dentist can help determine the underlying cause of bruxism and recommend the best course for treatment, such as orthodontics, to correct a misaligned bite or a nighttime oral appliance that protects your teeth from against each other.
Although common, chronic bruxism should not be taken lightly. It is important to address signs of teeth grinding as soon as you notice them to avoid more serious complications, such as tooth fractures, disruptive headaches, and painful jaw disorders. If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth, talk to your doctor or dentist about your symptoms. Seek help so you can resolve the issue, the sooner you can put your bruxism and bothersome symptoms to rest the better. Consult the complementary guide for further information on teeth grinding.
Author bio: Dr. Robert Pieters is one of the leading dentists at Schererville Family Dentistry, which has treated patients in Northwest Indiana for more than 20 years. He is also a member of the Chicago Dental Society and Northwest Indiana Dental Association.