Bruxism, commonly known as grinding or clenching your teeth, may not seem like a big issue. After all, everyone grinds their teeth at some point or another. But chronic, regular teeth grinding can have severe consequences, and many unknowingly grind their teeth in their sleep.
Over time, grinding can wear down enamel, which will make you teeth more vulnerable to cavities, chipping, and decay. It can also lead to issues with your jaw, including muscle pain. Grinding is most often caused by stress or anxiety but can also be the result of crooked teeth, an abnormal bite, or undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Here are the signs you’re grinding your teeth, how you can stop, and what to do with the damage.
Am I Grinding My Teeth?
If you’re unsure whether you’re grinding your teeth, there are some telltale signs.
First, if your partner or anyone you live with has noticed a chewing sound while you sleep, that’s a strong sign that you’re grinding throughout the night. This is one of the most severe forms of bruxism, as it shows that your grinding is prolonged and consistent, and means you need to address it immediately.
If you don’t have a grinding noise to go by, do you have headaches upon waking up? That can also be a sign of night grinding. Dull, persistent headaches without cause throughout the day can also be a sign of grinding.
Another sign is pain and tightness in your jaw muscles. In some cases, this can be so debilitating that you have difficulty moving your jaw, but even a bit of stiffness can be a sign of grinding.
This is harder to identify, but if you’re seeing any of the above symptoms, check your teeth for flatting, chipping, or general wear. If any of them feel particularly sensitive, that means that your enamel may be worn down from nighttime grinding.
Finally, if you’re seeing damage to your crowns, fillings, or other dental work, that is a very strong sign of grinding your teeth.
How Can I Stop Grinding My Teeth?
There are a lot of options for reducing or eliminating grinding, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to comprehensive dental treatments.
First, simple stress reduction, especially before bed, can have a massive impact on grinding. Try relaxing and minimizing work in the hours before sleep. You can also look at options like counseling, regular exercise, or muscle relaxants. You should also rule out the possibility of a root sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea.
Next, try cutting back on food and drink with high amounts of caffeine like soda, candy, and especially coffee. Consuming alcohol, especially before bed, is also a leading cause of grinding your teeth. Cutting down on your consumption can be a huge factor.
You may want to eliminate repetitive chewing from your routine. Chewing on pencils, pens, and even gum can train your muscles to continually clench in the absence of food.
If you notice yourself grinding or clenching throughout the day, try placing your tongue between your teeth. This is a great way of training yourself against grinding.
The most surefire way to prevent damage is the use of a custom mouth guard. If used at night, a guard can protect the enamel of your teeth and prevent morning headaches. Talking to your dentist can start the process of securing the right mouth guard to reduce friction.
Follow Up with A Dentist
If you’ve been grinding, it could mean that the enamel of your teeth has been compromised, increasing your chances of cavities or decay. It can also severely damage crowns, fillings, and the existing dental work in place, so you’ll want to make sure these are secure. Schedule an appointment with a dentist immediately to ensure your consistent oral hygiene.
Whether you’re trying to resolve a grinding issue or following up to check on the health of your teeth, we’re here to help. Contact us today to ensure that tooth grinding and jaw clenching doesn’t hurt your smile.