Have you noticed that you clench or grind your teeth, especially in a stressful situation? Sometimes, that's the only time you are aware that you're doing it, but it may be happening more often than you may realize.
When teeth grinding, which is medically known as bruxism, happens on a regular basis, it can be harmful. What causes bruxism? How do you know you're doing it, and is there a cure? Here are a few details about teeth grinding to help you understand the condition:
Causes of Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding can be caused by stress, anxiety or a sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnea.
Signs that You are Grinding Your Teeth
Bruxism normally happens at night, so you often aren't aware of it. If you wake up with a sore or swollen jaw, a headache, ear discomfort, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain or teeth marks on your tongue, you may be grinding your teeth in your sleep. Ask your partner or a family member who sleeps in the same room if he or she hears you grinding your teeth in the night.
Why is Bruxism Harmful?
Grinding your teeth wears down the enamel, and you may have to have extensive dental repairs, such as crowns, bridges or dental implants. Grinding can also break, chip or loosen your teeth. In addition, if the case is severe, the appearance of your face can even change.
How to Stop the Grinding
Here are a few ways to help decrease bruxism:
- Cut back on your consumption of alcohol and caffeine, as both are known to increase the risk of bruxism.
- About 70 percent of bruxism cases are caused by stress or anxiety, so it can help to consciously train yourself to relax. When you feel stressed, practice breathing exercises, taking slow deep breaths through your nose and releasing them slowly from your mouth.
- Try holding a warm cloth against your jaw before you sleep at night, to loosen the muscles and help them relax.
- If your dentist recommends an occlusal guard, use it. The soft, plastic guard fits over your top teeth and protects them from grinding against your bottom teeth. Custom mouth guards last longer than those you'd buy at the drugstore and fit your bite perfectly.
If you believe you may be grinding your teeth at night, schedule an appointment with a dentist in your area to learn the best way to treat your condition.