Teeth grinding is clinically known as bruxism, and includes clenching, grinding, and/or gnashing. It often happens during sleep, but can happen during the day as well. If you find yourself clenching your teeth during the day, you may be also grinding your teeth at night.
You may not even be aware that you have bruxism, so here are some common symptoms of teeth grinding:
- Muscle pain in your face
- Tightness and/or stiffness in your shoulders
- Pain/stiffness in your jaw joint & the muscles around the joint
- Disrupted sleep (for both you and possibly your partner)
- Worn teeth (resulting in more tooth sensitivity and maybe tooth loss)
- Broken teeth or fillings
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing
- Indentations on your tongue
In both adults and children, teeth grinding is often a result of stress or tension. There are also a number of other causes for bruxism:
- Anger, frustration,
- Aggressive/competitive/hyperactive personality
- Abnormal teeth alignment
- Sleep apnea
- Response to earache or teething in children
- A side effect from certain psychiatric medicine or antidepressants
- Coping strategy
- Complication from Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
When talking to your dentist about teeth grinding, you provider will take into consideration factors like your age, your personality, your stress level, the medications you may be taking, your lifestyle, and whether or not you are suffering from a sleep disorder. Make sure you mention any of these problems to your dentist, so that they can discuss your options for halting the grinding. Most of the time, a sleep study is not necessary, but your dentist can help you evaluate how severe the problem is and what your next steps you may need to take.
The problem with teeth grinding is that it can cause damage to your teeth and jaw. If you find yourself clenching your teeth on a regular basis, you may be grinding your teeth at night too. If so, you are at risk for damage or injury. Teeth grinding complications are not fun—it is not an innocent problem or habit.
4 Dangers You Should Know About Teeth Grinding:
- Damage to teeth, restorations, crowns, and/or jaw – Grinding can cause stress fractures and cracking in your teeth or dental work. Existing cracks can deepen or worsen, and you could loose sections of your molars. Over time with grinding, your teeth can wear out and become weak.
- Facial pain – Because teeth grinding also works the muscles of your face, continued grinding can cause muscular pain in your face. It can also cause pain to the teeth and the jawbones.
- TMJ disorders (near the front of your ears, could sound like clicking or popping when you open/close your mouth) – This is due to the extra pressure on your jaw caused by teeth grinding. Over time, if the grinding is habitual, it could result in the painful symptoms associated with TMJ.
Treatment for bruxism varies, and your dentist can guide you to the right treatment for you and your situation. If you begin noticing any kind of pain in your jaw or mouth, make sure to discuss that with us at your next appointment. Catching the problem early can help to prevent extensive damage that comes with allowing the problem to continue.