Are You Unconsciously Grinding Your Teeth?
Let us help you! Bruxism can lead to dental damage, jaw muscle pain, fatigue, and temporal headaches.
Can Teeth Grinding Be Harmful?
Chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, and in some cases, a complete loss of teeth. When left unchecked, grinding, jaw clenching and gnashing can wear teeth down to stumps. When bruxism is allowed to continue, crowns, root canals, bridges, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.
Not only can severe grinding ruin teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also damage your jaws, cause or worsen TMD/TMJ, and even alter the appearance of your face.
If you or a loved one suffers from teeth grinding, there are things you can do to stop it. Some remedies may work better than others, depending on the underlying cause of your bruxism and symptoms.
“Many people don’t realize they’re grinding their teeth until they wake up with sore muscles, develop migraines, or they’re told by a sleep partner.”
Most of the time, bruxism is not severe enough to cause major problems, although symptoms can change from person to person. Also, whether a person grinds their teeth at night or during the day is often a factor. Because it’s subconscious, it isn’t something you can control, and to a lage extent you may not even be aware of it. However, over time, the signs of constant teeth grinding can become more obvious, and may include:
- Aching jaw muscles
- Chewed places on your tongue or cheek
- Damage to teeth (chipped, cracked, or worn-down teeth edges, loose teeth)
- Ringing and discomfort in one or both ears (with no symptoms of an ear infection or other ear problems)
- Headaches (including tension headaches from day grinding and morning headaches for nighttime bruxism)
- Neck pain or soreness
- Noise from the grinding or clenching that wakes your sleeping partner
- Severe facial pain
- Teeth that are very sensitive to cold, heat, or pressure
- Problems biting and chewing (often related to a jaw dysfunction)
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
Teeth grinding is also common in children. However, because their teeth and jaws change and grow so quickly, it is not usually a damaging habit that requires treatment. Most children outgrow it by adolescence.
Although in adults teeth grinding is often the result of stress, the same is not always true with children. Other possible causes of teeth grinding in children include:
- Irritation in the mouth
- Misaligned teeth
Are you clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth? Ask Dr. Carpenter about the potential causes and, if necessary, the possible solutions.
Treatments for Bruxism
Mouth Guards, Night Guards and Splints
A mouth guard is an occlusal splint that may be helpful for sleep bruxism. It works by cushioning your teeth to prevent them from grinding against each other while you sleep. Mouth guards, often called night guards, can be custom-made especially for you at our office, or purchased over the counter (OTC). If you have chronic sleep bruxism, the goal of a custom-made mouth guard is to protect your teeth from damage and reduce the strain on your jaw. Custom-made mouth guards are more expensive than OTC options, but are often a more effective choice for some people.
Custom-made mouth guards come in varying degrees of thickness. Also, because they’re fitted specifically to your jaw’s size and shape, they’re typically more comfortable than store-bought mouth guards.
OTC mouth guards may not be as effective for severe bruxism as custom-made types, but their low cost may make them an attractive and viable solution for people with minor teeth grinding.
Tongue and jaw muscle exercises
Tongue and jaw muscle exercises can help you relax your jaw and facial muscles and maintain proper alignment of your jaw. Try the following exercises:
- Open your mouth wide while touching your tongue to your front teeth. This helps relax the jaw.
- Say the letter “N” out loud. This will keep your top and bottom teeth from touching and help you avoid clenching.
- Massage your jaw to loosen up the muscles.
Meditation, Exercise, Yoga
If stress is the cause of your bruxism, you need to find a way to relax. Meditation and exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Participants in a recent study did two 90-minute Hatha yoga sessions each week for eight weeks. While larger studies are needed to fully understand yoga’s effects on stress-induced bruxism, smaller studies indicate a significant reduction in mild to moderate stress and depression following yoga practice.
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth and is affecting your daily life, talking to a therapist, counselor, or trusted friend may help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. A psychiatrist may also prescribe medications to help reduce stress and anxiety, if needed.
Find comfort and relief! If your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive, or if you suffer from pain in your face or jaw, please talk to one of Dr. Carpenter’s friendly team members. We’ll answer your questions and help you explore your treatment options.