Teeth grinding or bruxism is involuntary or habitual grinding of your teeth, typically during sleep but not always. This can cause headaches, jaw pain and damaged teeth but that’s not the only after effects of bruxism. Here are some more you may have not realized.
Most of the time, bruxism is mild but in the case when it’s frequent and severe, grinding your teeth can aggravate the joints in your lower jaw. This can lead to pain or tightness in the joint area, and even earaches and headaches. Of course, it’s bad for your teeth — it can wear down your enamel, causing increased tooth sensitivity and chipped or broken teeth.
You may be more likely to grind or clench your teeth if you’re tense, anxious or frustrated. It is not fully understood what leads to teeth grinding. Caffeine or nicotine ingested before bed may be a contributing cause. Teeth grinding is also associated with certain competitive or highly determined personality types.
You may have never been a teeth grinder or clencher but that doesn’t mean you’ll never become one. Since stress is the main cause of bruxism, you may develop it later on due to unexpected changes and challenges in your life.
Just like snoring for some people, you may not believe you actually grind your teeth while you’ll sleep. Top indicators are unexplained facial pain, earaches or headaches, or tenderness around the jaw joint. Often, it’s a sleep partner who will complain about being disturbed during the night by the sound of constant grinding.
Kids grind their teeth more than adults. Does that mean our kids are stressed out? Children may grind their teeth when they’re coping with earaches or teething or it may be related to jaw and tooth growth and development. Bruxism tends to run in the family but children who grind their teeth usually outgrow it by adolescence.
In many cases, no treatment is needed but if the problem is severe, there are ways to stop it while you sleep. A plastic mouth guard, will eliminate damage and will also ease the associated joint pain.
Sometimes changing the position you sleep in, or eliminating caffeine or smoking before bed can reduce teeth grinding. Daytime bruxism is easier to manage because you’re more aware of it. If you notice yourself grinding or clenching your teeth, make a point of relaxing your jaw with your mouth closed and your teeth apart. If it’s stress related, relaxed activities like yoga or listening to calming music can help alleviate stress.