Do you gnash, grind or clench your teeth while you sleep? Most people might not know that they grind their teeth at all, but your dentist will and mostly likely will recommend you do something about it. But why is teeth grinding bad? Let’s explore the reasons.
What is Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism, is the act of gnashing, grinding or clenching your teeth. You can clench your teeth while you are awake (awake bruxism) or grind or clench them while asleep (sleep bruxism).
The American Dental Association notes that teeth grinding may be mild and occasional, or aggressive and frequent. Some people make so much noise clenching and grinding their teeth at night that even their sleep partners are disturbed by it. Others make no sound, and may not even know they do it until their dentist points it out. We can usually tell right away if someone grinds their teeth.
Why is Teeth Grinding Bad?
People who clench or grind their teeth can develop a headache, jaw ache, earache or toothache. Facial muscles can feel sore. Joints can feel tender. As the tooth’s surface enamel is worn away, dentin is exposed, and your teeth can become sensitive to hot and cold. Ongoing teeth grinding can lead to excessive wear, cracks or fractures in teeth; misalignment of teeth, severe jaw pain, TMJ disease, an abnormal bite, and potential tooth loss.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
In addition to your dentist noticing bruxism symptoms, you may detect some on your own. Here are some of the more common symptoms you might encounter:
• Grinding and clenching of teeth, whether awake or asleep
• Worn tooth surfaces; flat teeth; chips and fractures
• Increase in tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
• Tight, tired or sore jaw muscles, face pain or soreness
• Earache-type pain
• Dull headache near the temples
• Sleep disruption
• Chewing on the inside of the cheek
What Leads to Teeth Grinding?
The most common causes of teeth grinding, or bruxism, are stress, anxiety, anger, frustration and tension, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Several factors are known to increase its risk:
• Age: more common in children and may go away by adulthood
• Personality type: Competitive, aggressive and hyperactive
• Medications: Side effects from various psychiatric medications, like some antidepressants
• Drinking caffeine and alcohol
• Genetics: it may run in families
• Other disorders: both mental and medical
Prevention of Teeth Grinding
Learning behavioral modification methods of relaxation and meditation can aid in managing these conditions. Hypnosis has also been shown to help.
As a mechanical cure, our practice likes to recommend an occlusal appliance like a custom-fitted night guard. Using a mold taken of your mouth, we can craft a comfortable, snug-fitting night guard that will prevent tooth surfaces from rubbing together as you sleep, and help prevent tooth damage. You won’t even notice you’re wearing it.
Advanced Family Dentistry: Your Family Dentist in Reston
Do you think you might be grinding your teeth? Our dentists at Advanced Family Dentistry will be glad to check. During your regular twice-a-year cleaning and dental checkup, we look for changes in your teeth that might indicate tooth grinding, like worn enamel on tooth surfaces or chipped teeth.
We believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience to help our patients maintain the best long-term oral healthcare. So feel free to ask us about any dental concern you might have. We also accept most insurance plans so that your family’s dental healthcare is covered.
Dr. Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.