If you’re reading this article, then you are most likely already aware that you are one of the 30-40 million US citizens that experience bruxism—grinding teeth. Many at first don’t realize that they suffer from this very common condition that mostly occurs while you sleep. Often, it is your partner that makes you aware of it or a buildup of symptoms that causes you to seek answers.
Symptoms of Grinding Teeth
If you are suffering from bruxism, you have probably experienced some or all of the following symptoms:
- Headaches in the morning
- Pain in your face, especially the jaw area
- Jaw muscles that feel tight
- Swelling in your jaw area
- Sore teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- A grinding sound that wakes you
- Sleep disorders
- Rhythmic contraction and/or clenching of the jaw muscles during the day
Causes of Grinding Teeth
Bruxism can affect both children and adults throughout many stages of life, and the reasons are varied. Quite often, it is simply stress and anxiety that causes grinding teeth. However, other possible causes include smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, too much caffeine, and depression.
Additionally, you may have developed bruxism as a side effect of a medication you are taking, or you might have a misalignment of your upper and lower jaw. Regardless of the reasons, it is important to seek treatment for teeth grinding, because prolonged bruxism can lead to serious dental problems.
The Effects and Treatment of Bruxism
Over time, teeth grinding can lead to damaged teeth, such as fractures and chips. You can also wear down the tooth enamel in several areas, subsequently leading to more dental problems. Additionally, the symptoms can lead to continuous headaches and pain in the face, which certainly won’t improve your day either.
Depending upon the causes of your bruxism, there are several different treatments you can try. For starters, you can try wearing a bite guard, also commonly referred to as a bite plate or night guard. Your dentist can evaluate your problem and develop a specially customized bite guard for you. The bite guard fits over your upper and lower jaw. Worn while you sleep, it will protect your teeth and reduce the pressure and pain on your jaw.
If you have developed bruxism due to stress or anxiety, then the treatment must also focus on reducing your stress. You can try relaxation techniques, stress reduction therapy, or yoga. Hypnosis has also been shown to be effective.
Living a healthier lifestyle can also inhibit teeth grinding. Reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol, and quitting smoking (or at least attempting to cut down) can prove effective. Engaging in a relaxing activity before bedtime, such as a calming bath, or drinking a relaxation tea can also reduce symptoms of bruxism.
Your first step in combatting bruxism is to speak with your dentist, who can properly evaluate the condition of your teeth and help develop a treatment plan based on your symptoms.
If you are also suffering from other sleep disorders, you might consider visiting a sleep disorder clinic as well. There, you will learn more about the possible causes and symptoms of bruxism and other sleep disorders, and gain more insight into how you can alleviate the symptoms and ultimately stop suffering from these maladies.