Have you ever woken up with terrible pain in your jaw? Maybe you’ve gone weeks with this feeling that you can’t explain. It’s like someone has been punching you right in the jaw in your sleep. Well, don’t worry there isn’t some shadow boxer in your bedroom, you’re likely grinding your teeth in your sleep. This is known as bruxism; it’s the rhythmic clenching of jaws and grinding of teeth that develops at any age. While bruxism is present during the waking hours and likely due to stress, it’s the nighttime grind that we’re worried about.
This affliction is quite common, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t quite damaging. Grinding and clenching can ruin your smile and it’s all in a night’s sleep.
Why All This Grinding and Clenching?
Grinding and clenching can be caused by stress and anxiety. Say you have a blog post due for your dental office within the next hour, you may be clenching your jaw as you type trying to be the clock. Stress is the modern American plague, and unfortunately it has serious physical effects that take their toll on all aspects of our bodies. Nighttime clenching and grinding is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Should You Be Worried?
Teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The daily grind could wear teeth down to stumps — that may sound extreme but teeth are hard and grinding them together is like grinding two stones together. If any of this happens you may need one of these fun things: bridges, root canals, caps, fillings, or crowns. If you wake up with pain or your loved one is kept up by the sound of grinding you should be concerned, but there is no need to worry. The best course of action is to visit your dentist and talk to them about bruxism. They may give you some treatment options like the following:
They might fit you with a mouthguard. At night when you go to bed you will put in the mouth guard; it acts as a protection from yourself. The grinding may still happen, but the guard prevents any damage. Your mouth guard will be custom fit, so there will be little to no discomfort.
Maybe they’ll give you a mandibular advancement device. Okay, it’s not as medieval as it sounds. This special fitted appliance will fit over your top and bottom teeth. It’s typically used to bring your bottom jaw (mandible) forward. Remember that one of the causes was improper bite, well this fixes your bite.
They may recommend a therapist. If the grinding and clenching seems to be solely caused by stress, your dentist might recommend a therapist. There is really no better way to stop the issue then to get to the root of the cause before you grind down to the root of your tooth.
Some Tips For in the Meantime!
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine messes with your sleep, and if you aren’t sleeping properly you’re at a higher risk of bruxism.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol consumption tends to intensify the grinding.
- Train yourself to stop. Be conscious of your jaw. If you find yourself clenching during the day do you best to stop. This will train your muscles to relax more often.
- Don’t chew anything but food. Chewing things like pencils or pens has the inverse effect of the last tip, it trains your jaw to clench and tense up.
The Bottom Row
Grinding teeth and clenching teeth is normal and common, but it isn’t healthy. There are seriously damaging effects that can come from bruxism. The best thing to do if you think you have a problem is make an appointment with you dentist.