How often do you experience headaches and jaw pain during the day? Do your teeth ache and your temples throb? If so, you could be one of the 8% of adults with a teeth grinding disorder called bruxism.
Teeth grinding is a serious issue that poses a threat to your dental health and overall comfort. Nobody wants to walk around with teeth grinding-induced migraines all day! Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous habit and how you can stop it.
Why Does Teeth Grinding Happen?
If you have bruxism, you clench and grind your teeth while you sleep. This nighttime gashing may be triggered by a few different causes.
Anxiety and Stress
It’s human nature to clench your muscles when you’re angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this causes you to clench and grind your teeth together as well. You might even realize there’s a correlation between the days you’re most stressed at work and the days you experience the worst symptoms.
So it’s no surprise to learn that research suggests that daytime stress and anxiety play a huge role in nighttime grinding. You’re more likely to clench your jaw and move it back and forth while you sleep if you’re consumed by worry and stress over issues relating to your finances, career, or relationships.
Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and amphetamines are all known to cause nighttime tooth grinding. If you’re using any medications that fall under those categories, they have the potential to cause this issue while you sleep. There are also neurological conditions like Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease that may cause uncontrollable gnashing behaviors.
Existing dental problems also makes grinding behavior even worse. Misalignment prevents your teeth from meeting correctly when the jaw opens and closes. This makes it more likely for clenching and gnashing to occur.
Signs and Symptoms of Nighttime Teeth Grinding
Nighttime tooth grinding is tricky to identify because it occurs when you’re completely unaware of the behavior. Since chronic clenching and grinding puts so much pressure on the muscles, tissues, teeth, and other structures around the jaw, symptoms can be felt long after the grinding stops and you get out of bed.
A few of the most common bruxism symptoms include the following:
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- Sore gums
- Sensitive or broken teeth
- Clicking jaw joints
- Chronic dull headaches
- Flat, short, or blunt teeth surfaces
If you sleep in the same bed or room as another person, you can ask that person to listen for sounds of grinding overnight. The scraping sound of teeth grinding over each other is usually disruptive, unpleasant, and easy to hear.
The Damage Caused By Nighttime Teeth Grinding
Chewing food, talking, smiling, and feeling confident are all made possible by a full and healthy set of teeth. Bruxism threatens the health of your teeth by wearing them down, sometimes to stumps. When your teeth become fractured, loose, or damaged, you may find yourself needing bridges, crowns, implants, or even dentures in order to save your mouth and reduce your pain.
In addition to the direct damage to your teeth, bruxism also can lead to tension headaches, facial pain, and a condition called TMJ disorder that is defined by problems with the jaw and facial muscles. All of these problems cause enough pain to interrupt your daily activities and create unbearable suffering.
Preventing and Treating Bruxism
Your dentist is the most qualified professional to help you treat and prevent future nighttime teeth grinding. While you’re waiting to see your dentist, use these DIY tips to reduce the threat of bruxism while you sleep:
- Use stress-reduction techniques
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Remove all sources of blue light (TVs, computers, phones) from your room
- Sleep on your side or stomach
Your dental expert at Arvada Dental Center can also help you stop teeth grinding with the simple, painless, non-invasive use of a mouthguard. The soft inner layer feels comfortable along the teeth and gums, while the hard, durable copolyester outer layer stops your teeth from its instinctive grinding and clenching behavior while you sleep. This type of strategic mouthguard design resolves the pain and damage caused by bruxism, especially severe tooth, jaw, and facial pain.
Certain lifestyle changes can also minimize the intensity of bruxism. Consider making these adjustments to reduce your risk of bruxism:
- Cut back on foods and beverages with caffeine and alcohol since they are known to cause tension, anxiety, and aggression that commonly lead to grinding and clenching.
- Avoid chewing gum or biting on objects like pencils, pens, and nails.
- Decrease anxiety with essential oils, a relaxing bath, better time management, or other strategies
Get Your Dentist’s Help to Save Your Teeth
Left untreated, nighttime tooth grinding can wear down your teeth and leave you in chronic pain. If you have been experiencing frequent jaw discomfort, daytime fatigue, or dull headaches, ask Dr. Gregory Bennett to examine your mouth for signs of bruxism.
He’ll perform a clinical examination to identify the extent of your bruxism and suggest potential causes and treatments. Whether you need to realign your bite, treat an underlying health condition, or use a mouth guard, your specialized team at Arvada Dental Center are the best professionals to guide you through the treatment process.