It’s not unusual to find yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth from time to time, especially when you’re stressed. However, if you’re doing this regularly, you could be exposing yourself to some serious health issues — without even realizing it.
Tooth grinding (AKA bruxism) can lead to face and jaw pain, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), chronic headaches, tooth damage, decay, sensitivity, and even tooth loss. It’s a common problem, but most sufferers are unaware they have it because it typically happens during sleep, stress, or deep concentration.
So if it happens unconsciously, how do you know if you grind your teeth? And more importantly, how do you stop?
Do I grind my teeth?
Some people are told by their partner, but for most, the first indication of tooth grinding is waking up with an aching jaw, face, or ear. You might also get unexplained headaches throughout the day, and you may notice stiffness, tenderness, or clicking in the jaw, particularly when you eat.
Other tell-tale signs of bruxism include worn-down teeth, damaged filings or crowns, or a noticeable sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. In extreme cases, you might find that your teeth are easily broken or chipped.
What’s causing my tooth grinding?
Stress is the most common cause of tooth grinding and jaw clenching during the day. If you’re stressed, tense, or anxious throughout the day, then this will result in muscle tensing all over the body, including the jaw and face.
Other causes of tooth grinding include medications like SSRIs (commonly used to treat depression), malocclusion (misaligned teeth), certain lifestyle behaviors, and sleep disorders.
Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, using recreational drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, and drinking too much caffeine can all contribute to tensing, clenching, and grinding in the jaw, even while you sleep.
Strong connections between teeth grinding and disorders like sleep apnea have also been found. This serious condition is characterized by obstruction of the airways during sleep, and it’s thought that the grinding motion of the jaw helps to relieve the blockage. If you also experience heavy snoring, frequent waking, and chronic tiredness, you might be suffering from this disorder.
How do I stop grinding my teeth?
If you’re concerned that you grind your teeth, especially if you’re noticing symptoms like pain and tooth weakness, then the best course of action is to visit a dentist. Your dentist will be able to examine your teeth for signs of wear and advise you on how to stop teeth grinding.
Possible solutions include the use of mouth guards or splints, special devices that cover the teeth and protect them from wearing and breaking while you sleep. Your dentist might also suggest malocclusion treatment, such as braces, to bring your teeth back into alignment.
If you experience high levels of stress and anxiety, you can try relaxation exercises, meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to reduce muscle tension.
Try to keep caffeine consumption to under six cups of coffee per day, and if you drink alcohol, smoke, or use recreational drugs, try to limit or quit these habits altogether. Not only will this help to minimize teeth grinding, but your overall health will drastically improve, too!
If you suspect sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is linked to chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Conventional treatments like mouth guards can actually worsenyour condition by further blocking the airways, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right support. If you suspect sleep apnea, visit your doctor as soon as possible and discuss a referral to a sleep specialist.
Ready to stop the grind?
The good news is that, with a few lifestyle adjustments and some help from your dentist, teeth grinding is fairly easy to treat. The vast majority of people find that as soon as their teeth grinding stops, so do their aches and pains.
If you think you might be grinding your teeth, come and visit the friendly team at Mountain Peak. We’ll examine your teeth for signs of wear, fix any damage, and put together a pain-free action plan. Call us now on (303) 988-7800 to book your appointment.
About Mountain Peak Dentistry:
Mountain Peak Dentistry is the dental practice of leading dentist, Dr. Brennan Bonati. We’re proud to be recognized as the most trusted, reliable and compassionate dental practice in Lakewood, CO and the surrounding areas, providing comprehensive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry.