Strange as it sounds, you may be grinding your teeth (bruxism is the scientific term) and not even know it. It may occur unconsciously as you clench your teeth while you sleep. However, clenching your jaw or grinding teeth will eventually become apparent, presenting in pain in your jaw, even headaches. Grinding teeth can be audible and though you may be unaware that it’s happening, anyone within earshot can testify that your teeth grinding is a real thing.
Why people grind their teeth remains a mystery, though dentists believe there are some factors that contribute. Some of these conditions and scenarios include problems sleeping, an abnormal bite, or crooked or missing teeth. Bruxism may also be the result of infections, colds, allergies, ear infections or other conditions that may cause discomfort and stress.
Back to the Grind
No one is immune to bruxism. Both children and adults grind their teeth and experience painful symptoms because of it. If you grind your teeth, you can experience any number of negative consequences, to include:
– Medical conditions such as an earache, toothache, sore jaw muscles and facial muscle soreness.
– Damage to tooth enamel and if the teeth have been previously restored. Grinding will eliminate any positive progress as tooth enamel wears away and fillings, caps etc., are loosened and ground down.
– Cracked or loosened teeth. Pressure from grinding can cause teeth to loosen and crack. Additionally, the joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull (temporomandibular) can be damaged as a result of clenching/grinding.
– Exhaustion. Grinding your teeth can make your sleep anything but peaceful, and you certainly will feel the effects, if not the next day, but soon enough. And if you are asleep during this ordeal, imagine the person trying to catch some z’s nearby!
Make an appointment with a dentist at the first sign of pain in the face, jaw or teeth; or when your partner insists that it’s time. The dentist will diagnose your condition and then provide solutions that will help to eliminate teeth grinding. He will also provide a plan for correcting any damage that may have occurred to the teeth. Your plan might include:
– De-Stressing. Since stress is one of the perceived causes of teeth grinding, finding a way to de-stress may be suggested by the dentist. It could include taking a warm bath, reading, putting away electronics, eliminating caffeine or alcohol before bed or going for brisk walk before bed.
– Nightguards. Wearing a nightguard/mouthguard while sleeping will protect teeth and jaws, eliminating the pressure of grinding. The dentist can construct a nightguard of soft plastic that is designed to fit your mouth and teeth structure. The mouthguard will fit comfortably on one set of teeth to prevent the upper and lowers from touching.
– Add leafy greens. Consuming spinach and other leafy vegetables that are high in magnesium have been shown to be effective in preventing bruxism,
– Evaluate your meds. Certain medications, especially antidepressants, antipsychotics, and amphetamines, can cause you to grind their teeth. If you believe this could be the case, notify your doctor immediately.
– Ear infections The ear, nose, throat, jaw, are all connected. When we have an ear infection, we may grind or clench our teeth to try to relieve the inner ear and sinus pressure that is looking for relief.
On rare occasions, bruxism may be a result of neurological disorders or a sign of an underlying disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. If you have reason to believe that you – or your loved one –might be a teeth grinder, or you simply want to maintain a healthy smile, plan on visiting your dentist as soon as possible.
If you live in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, Dr. Steven Hagerman is a trusted local option for your entire family’s dental care needs. Dr. Hagerman is a featured provider on Angie’s List and a “Top Dentist” as recognized by Minneapolis / St. Paul Magazine, so you know you’re in good hands. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hagerman for you or your family, call (651) 646-2392 or use our convenient online appointment request form.