Don’t suffer from jaw pain caused by bruxism.
Bruxism is a term used to describe the involuntary clenching and grinding of your teeth. If it happens at night, you may not even be aware you’re grinding your teeth, but you will notice declining dental health and changes in your teeth.
Whether you’ve been suffering from bruxism for years or started clenching your jaw recently, these dental issues can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems and jaw pain.
Luckily, you can treat bruxism and get relief with regular dental appointments and the right procedures. Keep reading to learn all about teeth grinding and what steps you should take next.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the process of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, either during the day or at night. Most people have sleep bruxism and may not even realize that they are clenching their teeth as they sleep. Those who grind their teeth during the day may be aware of the issue, but may not know how to resolve it.
If untreated, bruxism can lead to jaw pain, tooth damage, an abnormal bite, and a whole other host of dental problems. Sleep bruxism is especially concerning since most people apply a grinding force of up to 250 pounds. Night after night, the tooth enamel starts to wear thin, which can lead to chipping, toothache, and tooth loss.
Occasionally grinding your teeth when you’re stressed or are focusing on something is not a reason for concern, and many people do grind their teeth from time to time. But if you start to feel jaw pain, changes in your dental health, or overall jaw tension, it’s time to seek the advice of a dentist.
Reasons for Clenching and Grinding Teeth
Clenching the muscles in your jaw is something called a parafunctional habit which is using a part of your body that wasn’t designed for that specific function. For example, using your teeth as tools such as with nailbiting is also a parafunctional habit. The jaw or orofacial muscles are designed to be used for chewing and talking, not clenching or grinding your teeth. Clenching is often a result of stress in the body, whether that stress is caused by lifestyle, depression, anxiety, or chronic illness. It can also be caused by dysfunction such as a malocclusion, or misalignment of your bite.
The specific trigger for bruxism may be one of these things or a combination of several, and the symptoms you may notice can show up differently from person to person. In children and adolescents, bruxism can be caused by stress at school, a growth spurt in the jaw, or an oral infection. In most cases, it goes away on its own, but if your child has problems sleeping or tooth damage, it might be time to see a doctor or schedule a dental appointment. Since stress is one of the main causes of bruxism, it can make the symptoms worse and lead to sleep problems, snoring, headaches, and a sore jaw. There are telltale signs, however, that your dentist will notice during an evaluation. We look for these signs at each dental evaluation, checking tooth wear, a scalloped tongue, and abfraction lesions which is loss of tooth structure.
Risks Associated With Clenching and Grinding Teeth
Bruxism is essentially an oral health issue. It can lead to extreme tooth damage and decrease the quality of your life.
This increases the risk of missing teeth, TMJ disorders, difficulty chewing, headaches, earaches, restricted range of motion in the jaw and mouth, and increased tooth sensitivity. Bruxism occurring especially at night is also sometimes a warning sign of disordered breathing during sleep. For those patients with signs of nighttime clenching and grinding, we screen the patient for other signs of disordered breathing. Sometimes that includes a sleep wellness visit and an at-home sleep study. The goal is always to understand and resolve the root cause of grinding and clenching to preserve your oral and overall health.
Getting Relief for Teeth Clenching and Grinding
Though grinding your teeth can be unpleasant or even painful, there are many different treatment options to explore with your dentist and healthcare providers to bring you relief. The exact right treatment for you requires first understanding the root cause, of course, to find the treatment that will work best for you.
If your bruxism is caused by stress, your first step is making lifestyle changes and finding stress-relieving activities that work for you. For example, if your stress is work-related, take some time off, if possible, ask to work from home, or find some grounding and relaxation techniques you can use on your breaks. You could also benefit from therapy if anxiety or depression is causing your bruxism, which can help you get better sleep and reduce your teeth grinding.
If you’re experiencing jaw pain during the day, try to avoid hard foods, hot and ice-cold drinks, and any sudden movements with your head or jaw that may cause discomfort.
If you are clenching your teeth at night, one way to get temporary relief is to use a special mouth guard that your dentist can recommend, and, in some cases, custom design for you. It helps create a barrier between your teeth to prevent damage and you’ll need to wear it every night. Myofunctional therapy is a great option for alleviating breathing issues during the night and relieving bruxism. It can reduce the frequency of grinding and clenching and improve your sleep quality.
For those with breathing issues during sleep, being screened for and treating any disordered breathing during sleep such as obstructive sleep apnea is a vital step to recovery.
Finally, if you have damaged or crooked teeth as a result of untreated bruxism—or as the reason for bruxism—consider restorative dentistry in the form of crowns, dentures, or implants. Orthodontic treatment may also help if you’re suffering from a misaligned bite. Your dentist will examine your teeth and let you know which solution is best for you. It’s important to treat the cause of bruxism so you can either stop or reduce the grinding, especially if you decide to get cosmetic or orthodontic work done.
How to Take Care of Your Teeth When You Have Bruxism
Regardless of how long you’ve struggled with teeth grinding, it’s important to take good care of your teeth and oral hygiene. Make sure you floss once a day and brush your teeth every morning and every night. Use mouthwash to rinse off any remaining food particles.
Avoid foods that are too hot/cold, acidic, or hard to bite into. Stay away from tobacco, alcohol, chewing gum, and foods that can make your teeth even more sensitive. Schedule regular dental checkups and use a mouth guard or bite splint if your dentist recommends it.
At Ada Smile Place, we offer complete dental care so you can be confident in your smile and keep your mouth and teeth healthy. Once we examine your teeth and determine the causes of bruxism, we’ll prepare a treatment plan specifically for you. We’ll track your progress and suggest the next steps in your treatment journey. Our goal is to give you a healthy smile and teeth, so we’ve developed an array of solutions and interventions specific to your needs.
Find relief from bruxism with the help of Ada Smile Place.
Whether bruxism is something you’ve been living with for years or it’s a recent issue, these tips will help you recognize the symptoms and seek the right type of treatment. At Ada Smile Place, we’re equipped with modern dental technology and offer the best dental procedures to help you get rid of teeth grinding, TMJ disorders, and jaw pain to restore your beautiful, healthy smile.
Ready to find relief for clenching and grinding teeth? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.