Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is very common. If you wake up with a tight or aching jaw, or headache, you may be excessively grinding and clenching your teeth while you sleep, which can lead to future dental problems. Fortunately, this is a well studied issue and there are many treatment options available through your dentist.
Why Do I Grind My Teeth?
There are several reasons for teeth grinding to occur.
* We may be unconscious when we sleep but our brains are still reacting to the stress of the day. This can lead our bodies to develop the habit of teeth grinding or clenching.
* Misalignment of teeth in the jaw called “misaligned bite” can trigger grinding. And so can missing or broken teeth. * Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can be contributing factors.
What To Do About Teeth Grinding
If not treated, excessive grinding will wear down protective tooth enamel. Without enamel, teeth begin to crack, loosen, and decay. Bruxism can also lead to jaw pain and TMJ. So if you suspect that you grind your teeth at night, or if a loved one has mentioned it, ask your dentist to evaluate the condition of your jaw and teeth for signs of impact and wear. Treatment options include:
* Your dentist may provide a night guard (aka mouth guard). A night guard is a thin, clear plastic piece that fits over one set of teeth . Getting fitted for a night guard that is specifically made for your bite is important. It ensures that your teeth are protected and that you can breathe properly while sleeping. One-size-fits-all commercial products are not going to do that. While a professionally made night guard may be more expensive, it is made of a durable material which fits more precisely and will last for years with care and cleaning.
* Ask your dentist about jaw exercises to relax your muscles and get them out of the clenching and grinding habit. It is possible to train yourself not to grind your teeth, but it takes a bit of vigilance and effort. Some experts recommend placing your tongue between your teeth when you catch yourself in the act. Others recommend opening the mouth wide and stretching the lower jaw forward to relax the muscles.
* Avoid bad habits that train your jaws to clench. Don’t bite down on pens or pencils. These actions teach your brain and jaw muscles that clenching will work to relieve stress. It won’t.
Having a night guard and relaxing the jaw before bed can improve overall dental health, help you to sleep better and relieve daytime jaw pain or headaches.
Whitmore dental can help you to find the right solution for your specific teeth grinding situation, including treatment options for bruxism and TMJ. Contact us today for a grinding evaluation appointment.