One of the more common chronic teeth issues is grinding of the teeth and also known as bruxism. In many cases, the person doing the grinding doesn’t even realize that they are grinding their teeth because they are doing it while they are sleeping. The repeated pressure they are consistently putting on the teeth is prone to create problems for their overall oral health, and lead to issues that can last during waking hours as well. Grinding will break down the enamel of the teeth. This will make them more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. Do you grind your teeth? If so, here are some things to know that might help you stop.
Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?
There are several reasons why you might grind your teeth. The big one is stress. If you experience daytime stressed, you will be stressed at night, even while you are sleeping. Your jaw muscles will clench and your teeth will grind together. It may also be a result of having problems with your teeth.
If they do not line up properly, or if you have crooked teeth, your teeth might not meet up when your jaw closes. This is called malocclusion. By not coming together, your jaw muscles can wear down and start to spasm, which will cause grinding.
The third main reason is if you have a medical condition that requires medication. Certain antidepressants can cause bruxism. Some medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease can cause bruxism as well.
How Common is Bruxism
Bruxism is very common. Some estimates show that around 40 million people in the United States are teeth grinders, whether during daytime or at night. Around 10% of those grind their teeth hard enough to cause serious damage. As people get older, bruxism rates go down. Young children are the most common sleep grinders, but they also tend to outgrow the issue when they get into ages 5 through 7.
Is Jaw Clenching a Sign of Anxiety?
Stress and anxiety are closely related to jaw clenching. When your body is faced with stressful situations or situations that cause anxiety, it will tense up. This includes the jaw muscles. At night when you are asleep, the things that are causing you stress don’t simply go away. You may even dream about them. When they cross your unconscious mind, your muscles will tense and your teeth will grind together. Many people also grind their teeth during daytime, and they may not notice they are doing it. When faced with stressful situations, or if they simply have a stressful work or home life, their muscles can tense up. These people might also have unexplained neck or jaw pain, or headaches on a regular basis.
How Do I Know If I’m Clenching My Jaw At Night
The odd thing about bruxism is that many people don’t realize they are actually doing it. This includes when they are awake, but it is more common for those who clench their teeth at night. Some things to watch out for to know if you are grinding your teeth at night include:
- Teeth that are inexplicably chipped or broken
- Pain in the jaw or neck when you wake up
- Injuries inside the cheeks where you have chewed on the skin
- A pain that seems like an earache
- Tooth enamel that’s worn down enough to expose the inside of the teeth
- Locked jaw
- You wake your partner with the noise of grinding teeth
If you have any of these symptoms, then it might be time to see if a dentist can help with your bruxism issue.
Can Bruxism Be cured?
These are the ways bruxism can be treated.
This method is generally used when the grinding has gotten quite severe. The enamel on the tooth has worn down to the point where the patient is not able to chew their food properly, or they have an extreme sensitivity. A dentist can either alter the chewing surfaces to provide some comfort or install crowns to repair damage and prevent further deterioration.
A dentist or doctor may also prescribe medications to help with bruxism. Muscle relaxants can be taken for a short time to make sure that your muscles are relaxed before bed. This is only a short term solution, however. Botox can also help with teeth grinding but is usually a last resort if that is the only reason for which it is administered. Anxiety medication can also help with teeth grinding by reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
Do Dental Guards Work for Grinding?
A dental guard, also called a mouthguard or night guard, cannot prevent you from grinding your teeth, but it can prevent damage to the teeth. It is a guard you can put in your mouth at night that covers the top row of teeth so they cannot rub against the bottom. Not only will they keep your teeth from breaking or cracking, but the protection can also help relax your jaw muscles. Night guards will disperse the pressure from the grinding teeth across your jaw. This will help resolve the facial and neck pain that is so common with night teeth grinding.
What is the Best Mouthguard for Grinding Teeth?
Mouthguards come in several types, and it’s important that you get one that works best for you. You do not want to take chances when it comes to grinding teeth since it can cause other dental problems if not properly treated. Here are some mouthguard varieties that you might come across.
You can go to most sporting goods stores and purchase a stock mouthguard. They cannot be adjusted for fit, and they are unwieldy to have in your mouth. Since they are not custom-made, they can be uncomfortable and make it hard to breathe and talk. There is in fact little evidence that they even provide much protection, so while these mouthguards are the least expensive, they also do not do much for you.
These can also be purchased at most sporting goods stores. They are what football players tend to use in their mouths. They work by placing them in boiling water to soften them up. You then put the softened guard in your mouth so that it conforms to the shape of your teeth once it hardens. These provide better protection that the unadjustable type of mouthguard, but they can still be uncomfortable.
Custom-fitted mouthguards are the best option to protect your teeth from grinding. An impression is made of your teeth so that a perfect model can be created. It provides superior comfort and protection. This option does tend to be the most expensive, but you will certainly get what you pay for. Many insurance plans will also cover a portion of the cost of a custom-fitted mouthguard, so check with your provider.
How do you treat bruxism naturally?
Some patients choose not to use medical interventions to treat their teeth grinding issues. There are some things you can do on your own to help make the symptoms better.
Exercise? What does exercise have to do with teeth? The surprising answer is that exercise can have a lot to do with your teeth. Since bruxism is linked to stress, and exercise is one of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of stress, it can be very helpful. Not only that, but it can tire out your body and help you relax at night when you settle down for sleep.
Stop Chewing on Things That Aren’t Food
Repetitive motions can tire out muscles and cause cramping. If you are a pen cap chewer, or you chew a lot of gum, you may be setting yourself up for a night of grinding your teeth.
Chewy Foods Might Not Be For You
If you are having a day where your jaw seems to be tighter than usual, then avoid eating chewy foods. This can mean anything from steak to taffy. If it requires extra bites to eat, then it can wear out your jaw, leading to more cramping.
How Can I Relax My Jaw Bruxism?
Relaxation of the muscles is such an important part of treating jaw bruxism. There are several things you can do to both relax the muscles and treat them gently to avoid spasms and cramps.
Relaxing Before Bed
You grind your teeth at night because you are feeling tension throughout the day. As mentioned, that has a lot to do with stress. It can be helpful before bed to go through a relaxation routine to try to alleviate some of that tension in your jaw muscles. For instance, you can apply a warm pad to your jaw when you settle in. You can also take a soothing bath before bed, or drink a warm, non-caffeinated beverage to heat up the muscles.
It might sound strange, but you can absolutely massage your jaw. If you are feeling daily stress and can feel your jaw clenching, rub it gently to get it to relax. This can have the added benefit of settling down your mind as well.
Recognize When You Are Clenching
It’s hard to stop yourself from grinding your teeth when you are asleep, but you can certainly do it while you are awake. Try to see if you can identify if there are types of situations that trigger bruxism, such as meetings or interacting with certain people. When you notice your jaw starting to clench, let your bottom jaw drop and hang for a few seconds. This will have the effect of relaxing your muscles and will hopefully improve your mindset going into a stressful situation.
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Teeth Grinding?
Another natural remedy can be a healthy diet. Both calcium and magnesium deficiencies have been linked to bruxism, so eating right may be your best defense against it. If necessary, you can also take supplements to provide the vitamins you need. A healthy diet is important to help with bruxism, but it’s also important for your overall health and well-being. If you are unsure if you are getting the appropriate amount of calcium and magnesium, or any other nutrient for that matter, consult with a licensed nutritionist.
Should You See A Dentist For TMJ?
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects the upper and lower jaws to each other. It is made of two bones and cartilage, which are all held together by ligaments. The TMJ works like a hinge to open and close the mouth. When you grind your teeth, you can wear down the muscles around the TMJ, causing pain and discomfort. In some cases this pain is temporary. However, over a long period, you can seriously damage the TMJ and require medical intervention. If you have been feeling pain in this joint on a regular basis, especially if it is happening at night, then contact your dentist right away. The most severe cases may require surgery to repair it, although this is very rare.
If you are waking up with pain in your jaw, neck, or head, or if your teeth seem to be chipping for no reason, contact Dr. Kate Brayman in NYC to see if grinding is the root of the problem.
We might be be able to help you get some relief.