Teeth grinding and clenching is also referred to as bruxism. Although many individuals find themselves grinding their teeth sometimes, it becomes a problem when it does frequently. Those dealing with may find themselves grinding teeth during the day without realizing it or doing it at night, which can awaken a sleeping partner.
You may not notice that you grind your teeth frequently or at night. Here are some signs of bruxism:
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain or fatigued jaw muscles
- Worn down or chipped teeth
- Worn tooth enamel
- Indentations on the tongue
Seeing a dentist for teeth grinding and clenching treatment may be necessary if you have any of these symptoms.
Doctors aren’t really sure what causes teeth grinding and clenching, but anxiety, stress, and suppressed anger all seem to be risk factors for it. You may also be more likely to experience teeth grinding if you have an hyperactive personality or if your upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned. Complications from other disorders, like Parkinson’s, and some medications, like antidepressants, can also result in teeth grinding.
What's so bad about teeth grinding?
You might notice the negative effects of teeth grinding right away. But over time, the effects can be very noticeable. Your front teeth can become worn down, and your teeth can be worn down to the point where they are very sensitive to hot and cold. The enamel on your teeth wears down gradually over the years on its own, but grinding speeds up the process.
Teeth grinding can also result in gum recession, sore jaw muscles, headaches, and loose teeth. If you lose your teeth as a result of teeth grinding, you may require bridges, crowns, implants, or even dentures.
All of these effects are especially harmful in children, whose teeth are still developing. If you experience teeth grinding, it's important to seek teeth grinding and clenching treatment right away.
When should I see a dentist?
You should contact our office right away if you notice any of the signs of bruxism. If you come in for a general visit and your dentist mentions that you are showing signs of teeth grinding, make sure you follow up with your appointments to fix the problem in a timely manner. You should also contact our office if you break a tooth or notice that your teeth are becoming loose.
As long as you seek teeth grinding and clenching treatment as soon as possible, the prognosis is very good for both adults and children.
How can I prevent teeth grinding and clenching?
In addition to seeking out teeth grinding and clenching treatment, it is also important to take steps to prevent the practice. Your dentist can give you specific tips on how to avoid grinding and clenching your teeth. In general, using a mouth guard at night can protect your teeth from grinding. Your dentist is able to fit you with a mouth guard.
For some patients, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed and taking steps to reduce stress also help to reduce instances of teeth grinding and clenching.
How is it treated?
There are a number of things your dentist might suggest for teeth grinding and clenching treatment:
- Your dentist might provide you with a fitted mouth guard that will keep you from grinding your teeth while you sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated foods and drinks, like sodas, coffee, and chocolate.
- Avoid chewing on items that are not food, like pens and chewing gum. This makes you more likely to grind your teeth, because your jaw muscles get used to the clenching movements.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night with a warm compress.
- Talk to your dentist about stress reduction techniques, like physical therapy, counseling, or exercising.