Teeth grinding, more formally called bruxism, is a common oral habit. While some people grind or clench their teeth during the day, many patients partake in this harmful habit during nighttime sleep. Here’s the problem with that scenario: teeth grinding can pose a major threat to your dental health and you may not even be aware you are doing it. Here are some ways to determine whether you’re a nighttime teeth grinder, along with ways your dentist can help.
What Is Causing You to Grind?
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) survey shows that between 8 and 16 percent of adults grind their teeth. According to the NIH, nighttime grinding is now considered a sleep disorder, and one that is also related to other sleep disorders. Stress and anxiety are the most popular causes of teeth grinding, as many people tend to subconsciously clench their jaw or grind their teeth during stress. Grinding can also be attributed to bite problems, missing teeth or misalignment. Finally, those with a sleep apnea disorder are more likely to engage in bruxism. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that needs to be addressed.
Are You a Grinder?
Unless you have a bed partner that discloses your habit, you may not be aware that you are grinding your teeth during your slumber. Since teeth grinding puts such strong force on your teeth and jaw muscles, there are often daytime symptoms that can reveal your grinding problem. If you experience the following, inform your dentist so that you can address the habit and protect your oral health:
- Morning headaches
- Sore, stiff or popping jaw (TMJ)
- Worn down or broken teeth
- Earaches or facial pain
What Can You Do?
Since teeth grinding is commonly linked to stress, the first approach may be to find ways to lower your stress/anxiety, such as more exercise, meditation or other healthy measures. It is also possible that by practicing jaw relaxation during the day, you can help prevent the tension and movement during the night. This involves making a conscious effort to stop clenching your teeth throughout the day and avoid excessive gum chewing.
The most effective way to prevent teeth grinding is to let your dentist provide a custom mouth guard. These nighttime mouth guards are proven to shield your teeth from clenching and grinding and prevent the disruptive daytime symptoms that follow. At Riverwood Dental, we proudly offer custom night guards that are both comfortable and effective. If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth during sleep, please call today to schedule your appointment.