Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw, experienced frequent tension headaches, or noticed your teeth wearing down? If so, you may be one of many people who have bruxism, or grinding and clenching your teeth.
Though it’s normal to grind your teeth occasionally due to stress, frequent grinding can cause serious issues down the line. It can wear away at the enamel in your teeth, making them brittle and weak. It can also cause you to experience pain around your temples and jaw.
Luckily, bruxism is a very common issue and is usually not a cause for concern. However, if you feel you’re grinding your teeth too much, you should consult with your dentist about possible treatments.
Here’s everything you need to know about bruxism, its causes, and how you can treat and prevent it.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition where you clench or grind your teeth excessively. It can occur while you’re awake (awake bruxism) or when you’re asleep (sleep bruxism). If you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep, you may have other issues, like snoring or sleep apnea.
At its worst, bruxism can wear away at your teeth, causing lasting damage to your smile. It can also cause uncomfortable aches and pains that make it difficult to get through the day.
You may not know you have bruxism if you grind your teeth during your sleep. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your dental health and keep up with your dentist appointments.
Bruxism Symptoms and Causes
Bruxism can have several symptoms, some of which you may experience every now and then as part of your everyday life — whether you’re sitting in traffic or stressed from work. However, if you’re constantly dealing with these issues, it may be time to consult your dentist.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of bruxism:
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Teeth that are chipped, loose, flattened, worn down
- Worn tooth enamel
- Tooth sensitivity
- Disrupted sleeping
- Dull headaches around the temples
- Soreness around the jaw, face, or neck
- Tired jaw muscles, locked jaw
There are many possible causes of bruxism, but it’s generally accepted that it involves a combination of physical, mental, and genetic factors. Awake bruxism may be caused by anxiety, tension, and stress. Certain personality types are more prone to bruxism because of frequent worrying, stress, or tension. Certain antidepressants, like fluoxetine, are also reported to cause bruxism.
How Does Bruxism Impact Oral Health?
Bruxism doesn’t tend to cause serious damage, but severe cases can lead to tooth damage, tension headaches, facial and jaw pain, and TMJ disorders.
In the most severe cases, teeth may be ground down so severely that root canals, crowns, implants, and dentures may be needed.
Over time, bruxism can also change the structure of your bite. Excessive grinding can eventually push your teeth out of their proper position, giving you a misaligned bite. If your teeth don’t close properly, your TMJ joints may be pushed out of their sockets which can cause discomfort and issues chewing.
Ways to Treat Bruxism
There are several ways you can treat and prevent bruxism. You can try many methods on your own, but remember to contact your dentist if problems persist.
- Your dentist may have you sleep with a nightguard, which prevents you from grinding your teeth.
- If you’re feeling tense or stressed, consider different activities and techniques you can use to relax like meditation, therapy, or exercise.
- Avoid foods and drinks that have high levels of caffeine.
- Avoid alcohol – grinding can increase after drinking.
- Avoid chewing on pencils or items that are not food.
- Avoid chewing gum.
- Try to catch yourself when you start clenching or grinding. Position the tip of your tongue between your teeth to relax your jaw muscles.
- Decrease stress before bed — put your phone away, read a book, or cuddle with a pet.
- Try one of these TMJ jaw stretches to relax the jaw muscles.
Bruxism and TMJ Disorders
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jawbone to your skull. This joint acts like a hinge that lets you move your jaw around.
TMJ disorders are relatively common because the TMJ works endlessly to perform some of our most basic functions (like speaking and eating). People with bruxism don’t always develop TMJ issues, but it can increase the likelihood of it occurring.
There is a bit of cartilage and a small shock-absorbing disc where the jaw bone meets the TMJ — it helps you move your jaw. TMJ can occur when this joint is damaged, the cartilage erodes away because of arthritis, or the disk pops out. TMJ can also be caused by autoimmune disorders.
The exact cause of TMJ can be hard to pinpoint – it’s a combination of physical and mental factors. Bruxism is often associated with TMJ, as both conditions share similar symptoms and are often mistaken for one another.
TMJ is usually temporary and mild enough to be managed on your own with over-the-counter medications and changes in habits. Surgery is usually not a concern for those dealing with TMJ, but some people may find relief with surgical intervention.
Are You Concerned You May Have Bruxism?
If you’re worried that you grind your teeth too much, or you’re experiencing aches and pains around your jaw and temples frequently, you may be one of many people who have bruxism.
Bruxism is rarely severe, and in the case you find yourself overwhelmed by symptoms, there are effective treatments that can help ease your discomfort. It’s important to address excessive grinding in order to prevent your teeth from becoming weak and brittle.
Don’t let the discomfort of bruxism get in the way of your everyday life. Access Health Dental’s team of qualified professionals is ready to help you ease your bruxism pain and carry on with your life.