Do you wake up in the morning with a headache? Do you have a sore jaw? If so, it may be because you grind your teeth at night. Millions of people suffer from this condition, known as bruxism or sleep bruxism. Bruxism can lead to several oral health complications and tooth damage, including tooth decay, gum disease, and missing teeth. Occasional teeth grinding is not harmful. However, consistent teeth grinding can be unbearable and take a severe toll on your dental health.
What is bruxism? What are the symptoms?
Bruxism causes people to grind their teeth. The grinding can be done unconsciously (sleep bruxism) or consciously (awake bruxism).
Symptoms of bruxism include:
- Abraded or worn down teeth
- Worn tooth enamel
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Facial pain
- Tooth pain
- Overly sensitive teeth
- Tense facial and jaw muscles
- Sore Jaw Muscles
- Jaw Clenching or locking
- Jaw Pain
- Misaligned teeth
- Abnormal Bite
What causes sleep bruxism and teeth grinding?
Bruxism is common in people experiencing nervous tension like frustration, anger, or pain. It also affects people with aggressive or overly-competitive tendencies. There is some proof that an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters can cause bruxism.
How can you tell if you’re grinding your teeth?
During your checkup, your dentist will examine your teeth for signs of bruxism. If there are symptoms, your dentist will watch the condition over subsequent visits before starting treatment.
What are the dangers of grinding your teeth, and how can it damage your smile?
Teeth grinding can cause many oral health complications, including:
- Tooth decay: The excessive force applied to the teeth can cause them to wear down and even crack or chip. This makes the teeth more susceptible to plaque and bacteria buildup, leading to tooth decay.
- Gum disease: Grinding can also cause the gums to become inflamed and pull away from the teeth. Bacteria may build up and can lead to gum disease.
- Tooth loss: Chronic teeth grinding can wear down your teeth significantly until there is not much more than a stump of tooth left. At this point, you may need dental implants, crowns, or bridges to repair the tooth.
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ Syndrome): Temporomandibular joint disorders affect the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. TMJ disorders can cause a clicking sound or grating when you open your mouth or chew.
- Migraines: When someone with bruxism clinches or grinds their teeth, the strain generated travels out and up into the head and neck. The music produces headaches and painful muscles in the face, head, neck, and even shoulders.
How can you prevent teeth grinding and protect your smile for good?
Generally, bruxism can be successfully treated. Here are some tips to stop teeth grinding:
- Behavior changes: You may be taught to rest your tongue, teeth, and lips properly. You may also learn how to relax the tongue to relieve discomfort on the jaw.
- Nightguard: The dentist will fit you with a plastic night guard that you will place on your upper and lower teeth. This mouth guard will help prevent future damage to the teeth. You will wear the mouth guard at night to absorb the force of biting. You can wear the mouth guard during the day if you grind your teeth while awake.
- Biofeedback: Biofeedback involves an electronic instrument that measures muscle activity in your mouth and jaw. It signals you when there is too much muscle activity to take steps to change that behavior. This is especially helpful for daytime bruxism.
- Medicine: Your doctor may suggest taking a muscle relaxant or sleep medicine before bedtime for a short period. Botox injections can also help treat bruxism. Additionally, your doctor may recommend the short-term use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help manage stress that may be causing your bruxism.
- Stress or anxiety management: If you grind your teeth because of stress, learning how to reduce stress through meditation, talk therapy, a warm bath, or jaw muscle exercises may prevent the problem. Incorporating tongue and jaw muscle exercises into your nightly routine can help you relax your jaw and facial muscles. A licensed therapist or counselor may be able to help you if the bruxism is related to anxiety.
- Food and alcohol: Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as sodas, chocolate, and coffee. Avoid alcohol and chewy foods. Grinding can be intensified after alcohol consumption. Do not chew on anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it adds tension to your jaw muscles.
Jaw and Face Exercises
Try the following exercises at home or with the aid of a physical therapist.
“N”: Widely open your mouth while touching your tongue to your front teeth to relax the jaw. Say the letter “N” out loud; this will keep your bottom and top teeth from touching and help you avoid clenching your teeth.
Chin tucks: Lower your head and bring your chin to your chest. While keeping your top and bottom teeth apart, push your chin back so your head returns to its normal position. Repeat this motion 15 times, three times a day.
Goldfish exercise: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and put one finger in front of your ear. Place your middle finger on your chin and drop your lower jaw halfway and then close. Switch between variations of opening your mouth full or halfway. You should feel some resistance, but not pain. A variation of this exercise is to place one finger on each TMJ as you drop your lower jaw halfway and close again.
Relaxed jaw: Rest your tongue on the top of your mouth and allow your teeth to come apart while relaxing your jaw muscles.
Resistance opening: Place your thumb under your chin. Open your mouth slowly, pushing against your chin. Hold this for four to six seconds, and then close your mouth slowly.
Resistance closing: Squeeze your chin with your index finger and thumb with one hand. Close your mouth and place gentle pressure on your chin.
Side-to-side: Put a ¼ inch object, such as stacked tongue depressors, between your teeth, and slowly move your jaw from side to side. As the exercise becomes more accessible, increase the object’s thickness between your teeth by stacking them one on top of each other.
Forward jaw: Put a ¼ inch object between your teeth. Move your bottom jaw forward to place your bottom teeth in front of your top teeth. As the exercise becomes more accessible, increase the object’s thickness between your teeth.
Tongue up: Put your tongue at the roof of your mouth, slowly open and close your mouth.
What are some treatments available at Hello Family Dental for teeth grinding?
If your dentist suspects that you might be grinding your teeth, they may ask some questions about your general health, medications you take, daily routines, and sleep habits. They will perform a dental exam to look for other dental problems or underlying health conditions. Treatment options will vary depending on the reason for grinding your teeth.
Some options Hello Family dental can offer are:
- Splints and mouth guards: These are designed to prevent teeth from clenching and grinding, causing damage. They can be made of hard or soft materials and fit your upper or lower teeth.
- Dental correction: In severe cases where your teeth have become sensitive or you cannot chew properly due to wear, your dentist might need to reshape the chewing surfaces or use crowns to repair the damage.
Hello Family Dental Can Help With Teeth Grinding
Grinding your teeth can lead to a whole host of dental problems, from tooth sensitivity to jaw pain. Thankfully, there are a number of treatments available at Hello Family Dental that can help stop grinding and preserve your smile. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of teeth grinding, be sure to visit our office for a consultation. We’ll work with you to find the best treatment plan to help you stop grinding your teeth and keep your smile healthy.
For more information on how to stop grinding your teeth, give us a call today!