If you’ve ever caught yourself grinding your teeth randomly throughout the day, or at night, you’re not alone. While there is no definitive data on the subject, many agree that the majority of people engage in clenching or grinding their teeth at some point in their lives – on either an acute or habitual basis.
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding on an occasional basis usually doesn’t cause severe damage to teeth. However long-term habitual bruxism can lead to dental and other health problems. But, why do people grind their teeth in the first place?
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
The habit can be caused by heightened stress and anxiety (both short-term and long-term) and is sometimes accompanied by nail-biting. In fact some researchers have suggested that both teeth-grinding and nail-biting are signs of an impatient Type-A personality, but this anecdotal conclusion barely scratches the surface of the reasons behind teeth-grinding.
One of the biggest problems with teeth-grinding is that those who do it might not know it because it often happens during times of sleep. When they wake up, they may have an unexplainable, dull headache or a sore jaw (both are telltale signs of bruxism). What typically occurs is a spouse will come to bed while the grinding is going on, or the grinding will get so loud that the spouse wakes up to realize what’s happening.
Why Grinding Your Teeth Can Lead to Oral Complications
Constant teeth grinding can loosen and fracture teeth – and even cause them to fall out in severe cases. It can also wear your teeth down to stumps if left untreated. The problems can lead a teeth-grinder to require restorative dental work, including implants, root canals, bridges, crowns and partial (or full) dentures.
Aside from the damage to your teeth, long-term grinding can also lead to loss of hearing, pain in your temporomandibular joint and even a slight change in how your face looks.
What Can Your Dentist do to Help Stop Teeth Grinding
The most common thing we as dental professionals do to mitigate teeth grinding is to fit you for an appropriate mouth guard. The ones we use are far more effective than the ones found in pharmacies and online and will likely fit more comfortably while you sleep. The guard will stop the grinding of the tooth surfaces, but won’t necessarily do anything to get to the root cause of your patterns of nighttime grinding.
As for the cause of your grinding – if stress is causing you to grind your teeth, we can suggest exercise programs, changes in diet (ex: reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption) and some techniques to relax your jaw muscles. However it may also be a good idea to talk to you doctor about other ways to reduce your overall stress level as well.
Have Questions About Teeth Grinding? We’re Here to Help
If you’re having any of the symptoms we’ve mentioned above, or if your spouse has mentioned that they’ve heard you grinding your teeth at times, it’s time to give us a visit. We can help determine how severe your grinding habits are and what the best course of treatment is for your teeth – and for your overall health.