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Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is the action of chronically clenching and rubbing your teeth together. Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth, since a lot of the time, this action occurs during sleep. If you wake up with a tender jaw, a dull, constant headache, or notice excessive wear on your teeth, you might be grinding while you’re asleep, or while you’re not thinking about it. This is a common condition that impacts more than one-third of adults during the daytime and one in ten adults overnight. In this article, we will help you recognize the causes and consequences of grinding your teeth.
[Related: How to Deal with Minor and Major Tooth Pain]
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding can be caused by a number of different things. If you find yourself grinding your teeth while you’re awake, it is usually because of emotional issues, such as stress, anger, depression, or anxiety. It can also be spurred by intense concentration. However, pinning down the cause of sleep bruxism can be a bit trickier.
Sometimes teeth grinding during sleep can be caused by an abnormal bite or missing teeth, and can be exacerbated by acid reflux or sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Things like tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs can also increase cleaning and grinding.
What Are the Consequences of Teeth Grinding?
Occasionally clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth won’t do you much harm, but if you do this on the regular you’re going to end up with some consequences. Bruxism can cause fractures in the teeth, headaches, jaw aches, muscle issues, and jaw joint problems such as Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
Chronic grinding can also wear your teeth down or loosen your teeth as well, leading to the need for root canals, bridges, crowns, implants, or partial dentures.
How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth
Although you might not be able to completely cure yourself of grinding your teeth, especially if you tend to do it while you’re sleeping, you can definitely manage the impulses during the day and prevent too much wear and tear at night.
Here are a few tips to manage the underlying causes of teeth grinding:
- Cut back on or avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially in the hours before bed
- Avoid chewing gums and other non-food items
- Be aware of when you clench or grind and position the tip of your tongue between your teeth to train you to relax
- Relax your jaw muscles by using a warm washcloth compress against your upper jaw at night
- Manage stress through exercise, meditation, or therapy
- Go for regular dental check-ups
- Treat other dental issues such as misaligned or missing teeth
In addition to these tips, your dentist can also fit you with a mouth guard or retainer to wear at night to prevent teeth grinding during your sleep.
Contact Cascadia Dental Specialists Today!
Left untreated, teeth grinding can cause problems with your teeth and jaw that can be extremely painful and cost you a lot of money down the line. If you find that you’re waking up with a sore jaw or a dull headache, or if you notice yourself grinding your teeth throughout the day, you should let your dentist know and discuss possible treatments.
Featured image via Unsplash