Does your jaw hurt when you wake up from sleeping? Are you noticing increased tooth pain or sensitivity? Well, it may be the case that you are grinding your teeth while you sleep.
Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, is a term used to describe the clenching and/or gnashing of the teeth. This can occur occasionally but when it begins to occur on a regular basis it can begin to cause real damage to your teeth and/or other oral health problems.
Many people are unaware that they even grind their teeth because it often occurs when people are sleeping. It can also be the case that teeth grinding occurs when you are awake, and yet still aware. People who grind their teeth are more likely to experience other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea for example.
Teeth grinding is not limited to adults and can be experienced in children as well. Approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth. It is common for teeth grinding to decline with age, but if necessary seek professional consultation.
If you are unaware if you grind your teeth, symptoms may include:
- Dull headaches starting in the temples
- Jaw/neck. or face pain or soreness
- Teeth that are painful or loose
- Fractured/flattened/ chipped or loose teeth
- Worn tooth enamel
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
- Sleep disruption
- Tight or tired jaw muscles
- Locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
- Pain that resembles an earache (although it is not an earache)
- Teeth grinding loud enough to wake others or yourself
There can be various causes of why you are grinding your teeth. Teeth grinding can be the result of allergies, misaligned teeth, and irritation in the mouth.
A study completed by the Journal of the American Dental Association suggests that teeth grinding can also be related to alcohol and tobacco use.
People who drink alcohol and smokers are approximately twice as likely to grind their teeth (Bertazzo-Silveira et al., 2016). Another common cause of teeth grinding can be the result of stress and/or anxiety.
Tips to Stop Teeth Grinding
There are different ways to stop teeth grinding, depending on the cause of teeth grinding. It is important to determine what are the causes of your teeth grinding in order to choose the best option in treating it. If your teeth grinding is severe, it is important to seek professional help. Listed below are different ways to treat teeth grinding:
- If teeth grinding is stress-related, finding ways to alleviate stress is key
- Getting fit for a mouth guard by your dentist can protect your teeth in your sleep
- If teeth grinding is caused by a sleep disorder, treating the sleep disorder is key
- Reduce alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use
- Practice relaxing your jaw muscles
- Refrain from chewing on things that are not food, as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth
It is important to remember that while teeth grinding can be a sign of a dental problem, it may also be related to stress and/or anxiety. Therefore do not ignore symptoms of teeth grinding, even if they are mild. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and take the next necessary steps!
- Bertazzo-Silveira, Eduardo et al. Association between sleep bruxism and alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and drug abuse. The Journal of the American Dental Association, Volume 147, Issue 11, 859 – 866.e4
- MayoClinic. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356100
- MouthHealthy. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding
- WebMD. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-grinding-bruxism#1
Written by Dr. Grand McDonald, PsyD.