Many people will grind their teeth occasionally, but if you find yourself frequently grinding or clenching your teeth, it can cause serious damage to your teeth and jaws in the long run, and it’s important to correct the problem. The official term for grinding your teeth is bruxism.
What is Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding most often occurs while you sleep, which makes it difficult to find out if you are doing it or not. From an oral health perspective, teeth grinding means the forceful lateral or protrusive jaw movements that cause your top and bottom teeth to rub or grind together. It could produce a rubbing sound, or it may be silent and involve tightly clenching the jaw and pushing teeth together.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
There are many different reasons you may be grinding your teeth, but at the top of the list is stress and anxiety. It may also be a result of suppressed anger, aggressive personality, misalignment of top and bottom teeth, sleep problems, complications from disorders like Parkinson’s disease, or medications, particularly anti-depressants.
Potentially Harmful Impacts of Bruxism
Teeth grinding can cause many problems for your teeth, jaw, head, and neck area, the most common being:
- Damage to the teeth or jaw
- Severe headaches
- Pain in the face and neck area
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
TMJ and Bruxism
The temporomadibular joint (TMJ) is the point where your upper and lower jaws meet. When you grind your teeth, the cartilage lining in the TMJ wears down, causing damage to the area that results in headaches, ear pain, dizziness, and ringing in your ear.
You may be grinding your teeth and not even know it since most teeth grinding occurs in your sleep. It’s a good idea to talk to the dentist if you experience symptoms such as:
- Grinding teeth, especially if it’s loud enough to wake someone else sleeping in the same room as you
- Worn out, flat, fractured, or chipped teeth without another explanation
- Worn out tooth enamel with deeper teeth layers exposed
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Tightness, fatigue, or pain in or around your jaw muscles
- Earaches or headaches
- Indentations on your tongue, or damage from chewing the inside of the cheek
There are other things you can do to reduce teeth grinding, including:
- Reduce your intake of caffeine, soda, chocolate, and coffee
- Avoid alcohol
- Only chew food; do not chew other objects such as pens or gum
- Pay attention to when you grind teeth, then train yourself to stop
- Use a warm washcloth against your cheek at night to help relax jaw muscles
- Talk to the dentist about getting fitted for a mouthguard that you can sleep in to prevent grinding