Nearly everyone grinds their teeth sometimes. But if you grind your teeth excessively, you may have bruxism. This is clenching and grinding of the teeth that happens involuntarily and may cause dental problems.
If you want to stop grinding your teeth, a general dentist in Webster can help. Learn more about what bruxism is, what symptoms it causes, and how you can treat it.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term for clenching and teeth grinding that happens involuntarily. There are two types of bruxism:
Awake bruxism occurs when you’re awake and involves clenching and grinding, which is usually connected to emotional issues. You may grind your teeth if you feel anxious, stressed, or angry. People also grind their teeth when they’re focused or concentrating. Awake bruxism is easier to just stop on your own and may not require treatment beyond stress management.
Sleep bruxism occurs while you’re asleep, which can be more harmful. Many people with sleep bruxism aren’t aware that they grind their teeth in their sleep until it’s revealed in pain or issues with their teeth or jaw. People who aren’t aware of teeth grinding can apply a lot of pressure, sometimes up to 250 pounds of force.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Depending on the type and severity, bruxism may cause:
- Obvious teeth grinding or clenching that may wake a sleep partner
- Teeth that are fractured chipped, loose, or flattened
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity from eroded enamel that exposes the deeper layers of the tooth
- Tired, tight, or painful jaw muscles
- A jaw that won’t open or close completely
- Jaw, neck, or face pain and soreness
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually coming from the jaw
- A dull headache at the temples
- Damage from chewing the inner cheeks
- Sleep disruption
Long-Term Effects of Bruxism on Oral Health
According to a Journal of Conservative Dentistry study, grinding or clenching your teeth while sleeping may lead to a much higher clenching force than regular chewing.
Over time, this can lead to:
- Cracking or chipped teeth, bridgework, or dental implants
- Wearing away of tooth enamel that exposes the dentin and leads to tooth sensitivity
- Painful or loose teeth
- Neck and jaw pain
- Long-term problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Causes of Bruxism
There are many potential causes of bruxism, including:
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring and sleep apnea may play a role in bruxism. Sleep apnea affects your ability to breathe during sleep.
Anger, anxiety, frustration, and stress are the primary emotional causes of bruxism. Clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth may arise as a coping method for these emotional responses, and stress is primarily linked to bruxism, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Tobacco use and alcohol consumption can increase the risk of bruxism. That said, bruxism is common in children, so it’s not solely the result of tobacco and alcohol use.
Preventing and Treating Bruxism
If you believe you grind your teeth at night, it’s important to note the symptoms and speak to your dentist at your next appointment.
Mild bruxism may be curbed at home through self-care measures, such as:
Relaxation is key to reducing the behavior if bruxism arises from stress or anxiety. Hot showers or bubble baths, massages, reading, meditation, and yoga are all options to reduce stress and relax before bed.
If you have awake bruxism, you can try to curb the behavior once you’re aware of it. Ask your dentist to show you the proper position for your mouth and jaw. If you start clenching or grinding, make a conscious effort to stop the behavior.
Changing habits can be difficult. If you’re struggling to stop grinding your teeth, biofeedback may be an option. This uses monitoring procedures and equipment to teach you to control muscle activity in your jaw.
Not everyone who grinds their teeth needs treatment, but severe symptoms may require intervention from your dentist. Left untreated, bruxism can lead to long-term damage to the teeth, prolonged TMJ problems, and morning headaches.
Mouthguards or night guards are worn at night to combat teeth grinding. These mouthpieces keep the jaw in a specific position and provide a barrier to limit tooth wear and damage from grinding. Some keep the mouth slightly open to ensure the jaw muscles are relaxed throughout the night.
Another type of mouthguard is the mandibular advancement device (MAD), which is often used for mild sleep apnea and chronic snoring. This device is held in place by the teeth and positions the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open and limit teeth grinding.
You may be able to get mouthguards and MADs over the counter, but it’s best to have an exam from a dentist and consider a custom mouthpiece, which is molded to fit your mouth.
Stop Grinding Your Teeth with the Help from a Dentist in Webster
If you’re struggling with a sore jaw, stress, and other symptoms of clenching and grinding, Empire Dental Care can help. Schedule an appointment today to protect your teeth and curb your grinding habit! 585-671-1650