Many people subconsciously grind their teeth from time to time. Mild or occasional teeth grinding — also known medically as bruxism — doesn’t usually cause much harm.
But when it occurs on a regular basis, it can result in serious and painful dental complications.
Keep reading till the end to find out everything you need to know about bruxism and why you need to stop grinding your teeth.
What causes bruxism?
Before we talk about why you need to stop grinding your teeth, it’s important to know what might be causing it in the first place.
Here are a few risk factors associated with teeth grinding, as explained by Australian Dental Specialists:
- Anxiety and stress. One of the most significant risk factors for bruxism or teeth clenching is increased stress and anxiety.
- Age. Teeth grinding is quite common in children. However, it usually subsides by adulthood. According to this data, bruxism affects approximately 15% of adults and anywhere from 6% to 50% of children.
- Type of personality. Individuals with aggressive, hyperactive, or competitive personalities are more likely to suffer from bruxism.
- Drugs and medications. Some psychiatric drugs like antidepressants may cause bruxism as a side effect. Similarly, alcohol, recreational drugs, cigarette smoking, and drinking caffeinated beverages may also increase the risk of teeth grinding.
- Family history. Bruxism, especially “sleep bruxism” (teeth grinding that occurs when you’re asleep) tends to run in families. If you suffer from teeth grinding, it’s likely that your family members also have the condition.
- Medical conditions. Teeth grinding has been linked with certain medical and mental health disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Why is teeth grinding harmful?
If you brush aside teeth grinding like it’s a trifling matter, you might be setting yourself up for significant trouble down the line.
One of the earliest complications of untreated bruxism is tooth damage. Chronic teeth clenching can result in your teeth becoming fractured, loose, cracked, eroded, and sensitive.
The grinding forces may even wear down your teeth to stumps. When this occurs, crowns, root canals, bridges, partial dentures, implants, and even complete dentures may be needed.
Furthermore, severe bruxism can go beyond just teeth damage and affect your jaws as well. The continuous pressure on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) due to teeth clenching can also lead to a TMJ disorder.
This condition can cause serious pain, popping or clicking noises, difficulty in chewing, lockjaw, tension-type headaches, and even changes in the shape and appearance of your face.
Lastly, bruxism can also cause problems for your sleeping partner. If you suffer from severe sleep bruxism, the noises you make when clenching your teeth at night can be irritating and make it hard for your partner to sleep.
What are the signs and symptoms of bruxism?
Because teeth grinding often occurs at night when you’re asleep or subconsciously during the day, most people with bruxism aren’t aware that they grind their teeth.
However, if you regularly experience some of the telltale symptoms of teeth grinding like constant dull headaches or a sore jaw, you should start suspecting bruxism.
Some other common signs and symptoms of bruxism include:
- Teeth grinding at night that’s loud enough to wake up your partner
- Frequent dull headaches stemming from the temples
- Tight jaw muscles or a lockjaw
- Teeth sensitivity
- Worn teeth
- Broken teeth and fillings
- Neck, jaw, or facial pain
- Disrupted sleep
- Receding gums
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consider visiting a dentist. Here’s what to expect once you’re there.
And if you’re someone who has dental anxiety, always remember that the sooner you identify the signs and symptoms, the sooner you can undergo treatment and enjoy relief from your pain.
What can you do to stop grinding your teeth?
Teeth grinding can cause uncomfortable symptoms that can affect your daily life. However, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent or reduce pain.
Some remedies and tips to help reduce teeth grinding include:
- Use mouth guards. Mouthguards work by cushioning your teeth and protecting them from grinding against each other while you’re asleep.
- Reduce stress. Studies have shown that stress and anxiety are linked to bruxism. Therefore, using stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, exercise, and therapy may help prevent or reduce teeth grinding.
- Be conscious of teeth grinding throughout the day. If you notice that you grind your teeth during the day, position the tip of your tongue in between your teeth to help relax your jaw and break your habit.
- Avoid caffeine. Cutting back on caffeinated drinks and foods like coffee, colas, and chocolate may help prevent grinding.
- Reduce alcohol use. Teeth clenching often intensifies after consuming alcohol and smoking.
- Avoid chewing gum. Chewing on anything that isn’t food like pencils, pens, or gum allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and can create a habit of teeth grinding.
- Apply wet heat at night. Holding a warm cloth against your cheeks and in front of your earlobe before hitting the bed relaxes your jaw muscles and may prevent sleep bruxism.
However, if these home-care tips don’t help and your symptoms get worse, get in touch with a dentist in Melbourne as soon as possible.
Why You Need To Stop Grinding Your Teeth is a feature post