Find out how teeth grinding affects your teeth
Tooth grinding is a condition that is often overlooked and can lead to serious dental and other problems. Find out know what tooth grinding is, how you know you have it, and the treatment.
What is teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a disorder in which you clench your jaw and grind your teeth together, putting pressure on your teeth and jaws. The condition may be voluntary, involuntary, or both. With voluntary teeth grinding, you habitually clench or grind your teeth during times of stress or anxiety. Involuntary teeth grinding, on the other and, causes you to grind your teeth during sleep. Many people experience both voluntary and involuntary teeth grinding, since one can lead to the other.
What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?
If you have voluntary tooth grinding, you are already aware there is a problem. However, if you have involuntary teeth grinding you may not know you have this condition since it happens while you sleep. Here are warning signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Your teeth seem flatter or more worn than they used to
- You have chipped or loose teeth that weren’t caused by injury
- Increased teeth sensitivity
- Sore or tight jaw
- Pain or tightness in face, especially in the mornings
- Pain and swelling on insides of your cheeks as if you’ve bitten them, but you don’t remember doing so
- Fatigue in sleeping partner if the sound from tooth grinding wakes your partner
What causes tooth grinding?
There are various reasons you may grind your teeth. Here are the most common causes:
- Stress and anxiety
- Misaligned bite
- Missing or crooked teeth
- Sleep disorders
- Sleep apnea
- Neurological diseases
- Medication side effect
Why is it important to treat bruxism?
Bruxism may seem like just an annoying bad habit. If you are noticing symptoms, though, you may wonder if the condition needs treatment or if you should wait for it to go away. Teeth grinding can cause serious dental issues if it’s not treated. The constant force and pressure from your jaw muscles can damage your teeth. Here are possible complications of tooth grinding:
- Fractured, broken teeth
- Tooth loss
- Damage to existing dental work including crowns and bridges
- Jaw disorders,including damage to temporomandibular joints (TMJ)
What can you do at home to prevent teeth grinding?
If you have voluntary bruxism, you need to become aware of your jaw and teeth. If you catch yourself grinding your teeth, take a deep breath and relax your jaw muscles. If you seem to be frequently under stress, find a way to relieve the stress before bedtime with exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Here are other ways to help reduce your tooth grinding:
- Avoid products that stimulate the nervous system and can cause anxiety such as coffee, soda, and chocolate
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol
- Avoid activities that simulate teeth clenching or grinding as these can lead to both voluntary and involuntary forms, like chewing gum or ice, or nervous habits such as chewing on the ends of pens and pencils.
- Whenever you notice your jaw tightening, relax it and position your tongue between your teeth or use your tongue to push on the roof of your mouth.
- Use a warm washcloth on your face and cheeks to encourage muscle relaxation before bed
See your Dentist for help with Teeth Grinding
When home remedies aren’t enough, or you are experiencing jaw or dental pain, it may be time to ask your dentist for help. A dentist can create a custom mouth guard that prevents damage to your teeth from sleep grinding. You simply use the mouth guard every night while you sleep. Mouth guards minimize the damage done to your teeth while you use other methods like stress management to reduce your bruxism. If your teeth grinding is caused by a misaligned bite or crooked teeth, dental work to correct these problems will help.
Tooth grinding may seem like a harmless condition, but it can cause big dental problems as time goes on. When you wear your teeth down and damage them, you end up needed major repair or replacement of the damaged tooth with procedures like:
- Root canals
- Partial dentures
If you suspect you may have tooth grinding, make an appointment to see your dentist and work together on a plan to repair any damage and a solution to stop the tooth grinding for good.
Dr. Medina is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Advanced General Dentistry, with a practice in Las Vegas Nevada since 1988. He offers general and family dentistry, with a specialization in cosmetic and restorative dental services.