Chances are, you have grinded your teeth at least once or twice in your life, maybe more. If you have, don’t fret. Occasional teeth-grinding, or bruxism, is common and will not usually cause damage to your teeth, jaws or gums.
But if you grind your teeth more often, your bruxism could be a problem that can be harmful to your overall oral health. It could lead to fracturing, loosening or losing teeth altogether. And it could cause or exacerbate existing TMJ. When your teeth are ground down to “stumps,” as they’re called after severe teeth-grinding, you could end up needing crowns, bridges, root canals, bridges or other serious dental treatments.
What causes bruxism?
If you’re grinding your teeth at night (or during the day), it could be because:
- You have too much stress and anxiety in your life.
- You have an abnormal bite (an overbite or an underbite).
- Your teeth are crooked.
- You have a sleep disorder.
How do you know if you’re grinding your teeth at night?
If you grind your teeth while you sleep, then you may not even know you have a problem. Some signs to look for include:
- A dull, constant headache when you’re awake
- A sore jaw when you wake up
How can you stop yourself from grinding your teeth?
If it’s stress-related or stems from a sleep disorder, then you’ll want to treat those problems by seeing a sleep disorder specialist and/or someone who can help you to reduce your stress levels. Things like exercise, diet or even prescription changes might be needed to address your stress-related health issues.
In the meantime, your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth and jaw while you work to treat those underlying issues.
Other things you can do to reduce or eliminate grinding include:
- Avoiding caffeinated beverages and sugary foods.
- Avoid alcohol. Studies show that people grind their teeth more after they’ve been drinking.
- Use a warm washcloth to relax your jaw. Do this by holding the warm washcloth up against your cheek, in front of your ear lobe.
- Don’t chew gum — or anything you’re not eating as food.
Do you grind your teeth at night? Or do you wake up with dull headaches and jaw pain? Then it’s time to visit your dentist and evaluate your options. Contact Dr. Chauvin’s office today for help.