Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can be a painful situation. This condition causes the person to excessively grind or clench their teeth, causing wear and tear over time. Typically, the problem arises at night while the person is asleep, but there are some cases where people will notice themselves grinding or clenching their teeth during the daytime hours as well.
If you grind your teeth at night, it’s known as sleep bruxism and is categorized as a sleep-related movement disorder. If this is happening in your sleep, it’s possible that you have other sleeping problems as well, like apnea. Mild bruxism can be easily managed, but if it worsens into a more serious case, it can lead to headaches, damaged teeth, and jaw problems. In either case, it’s important to know the signs of teeth grinding so that you can get it checked out and treated as quickly as possible.
Signs of Teeth Grinding
There are several signs to look out for if you think you may have a teeth grinding problem:
- Teeth are noticeably flattened, chipped, fractured, or feel loose.
- Worn tooth enamel that will eventually expose the deeper layer of your tooth.
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity.
- Tired or tight jaw muscles, which can sometimes worsen to the point that it will not open or close completely.
- Jaw, neck, or face pain.
- Dull headaches that start at the temples.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Grinding that may be loud enough for your partner to hear in the night.
- Sleep interruption for you and/or your partner.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment to see your dentist as soon as you can.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There’s not always a clear reason why a person grinds his or her teeth, but there are several possible causes. There’s a link to breathing airway issues, such as sleep apnea, tooth position, and dental work that has changed your tooth or jaw position. There’s also evidence to support that teeth grinding is linked to emotional and developmental issues. Since there's no one cause for teeth grinding and it can be caused by physical or emotional issues, it can affect anyone at any time. This is why it’s especially important to keep an eye (and ear) out for signs of bruxism in yourself and your family.
Risk Factors of Teeth Grinding
There are a few risk factors that come along with teeth grinding, that you may or may not have any control over:
- Stress - Increased anxiety or stress can lead to bruxism.
- Personality Type - Someone with a high level of aggression, competitiveness, or hyperactivity can be more prone to teeth grinding.
- Medications or other Drugs - Certain medications can come with a side effect of teeth grinding. Too much caffeine or alcohol consumption can also sometimes cause a problem.
- Heredity - Teeth grinding can run in the family. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with bruxism, there is a chance that you could develop it as well.
- Other Disorders - If someone has dementia, GERD, Parkinson's, or any sleep disorder, it's more likely that they could develop teeth grinding as well.
Treatment for Teeth Grinding
In most cases, a sleep study will need to be done if your bruxism is happening at night. If a poor airway is to blame for the teeth grinding, a treatment for that can be given first to see if it eases the grinding problem. Every case of teeth grinding is handled on an individual basis, but oftentimes a dentist will fit the patient with a mouth guard. This mouth guard is worn every night while sleeping to prevent damage to the teeth.
Other possible treatment options include dietary changes, postural changes, emotional therapy, medication, injections, and orthodontic work.
If any of these symptoms seem familiar, don’t hesitate to call and set up an appointment with your dentist. The longer you wait, the worse the teeth grinding can get, leading to more problems that you would need to deal with down the line. It’s much more expensive, painful, and time-consuming to get your teeth and jaw fixed than it is to be fitted for a mouth guard.
For more information on oral hygiene and dental health, check out Flintlock Dental’s other blogs here!