Do you often feel stressed out? Are headaches a regular part of your weekly repertoire? Has your significant other woken you up in the middle of the night, complaining about you making sounds with your teeth? If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you may be suffering from bruxism. And, something that may start as a minor annoyance may develop into more disruptive — and painful — complications.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term referring to the act of clenching or grinding your teeth. Some people do it unconsciously throughout the day, while others do it while they’re sleeping. The problem with this condition is that — done for prolonged periods of time — it leads to chronic headaches, jaw injuries, and teeth damage.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Since some people aren’t fully aware that they’re grinding their teeth on a regular basis, it’s easy to not realize what’s going on — especially if you do it while sleeping. That said, there are telltale symptoms that point towards bruxism. Some of these include:
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Sore gums
- Clicking or popping sound of jaw joints
- Soreness in your jaw and/or neck
- Worn tooth enamel
- Locked jaw
- Dull headaches
- Facial pain
- Damage or wear on your teeth
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
Why do you grind your teeth?
There are several factors that could cause a person to grind or clench their teeth. Some of them include:
Bruxism often happens in children — and it can be common in those who have cerebral palsy. For otherwise healthy kids, the condition usually goes away on its own as they grow up. That said, you should still consult with a dentist to prevent your child from experiencing chronic pain and damage to their teeth.
People with high levels of stress, anxiety, anger, and/or depression are more prone to experiencing bruxism. These could be due either to regular daily stress or a recent traumatic event.
Bruxism can also be a side effect of certain medications — especially if you’re taking antidepressants, amphetamines, or antipsychotics. Let your doctor know about your medical history, as well as all meds you’re taking — both prescription and over the counter — to figure out an alternative solution.
Underlying medical condition
Sleeping disorders, eating, and neurological disorders — such as Parkinson’s disease — can cause a person to grind their teeth more often than an otherwise healthy person. Talk to your doctor about whether bruxism may be a medication side effect.
How can you stop grinding your teeth?
There are several ways to help you stop grinding your teeth. Some ways include:
1. Treating the underlying medical condition.
If the issue is being caused by a medical condition, the first step is to obtain adequate treatment for it. For example, treating sleep apnea may resolve bruxism altogether. If you’re grinding your teeth due to stress or depression, you may feel like it’s a catch-22 — since both the condition and the medication to treat it may cause you to grind your teeth. Talk to your doctor about alternative medications, therapy, relaxation techniques, reflexology, and any additional treatment that can help treat the condition without resulting in additional pain.
2. Decreasing alcohol and coffee consumption.
The risk of bruxism increases with excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine later in the afternoon or evening. People who consume alcohol on a regular basis have twice the likelihood of developing bruxism than people who don’t. By the same token, people who consume more than eight ounces of coffee per day are more likely to grind their teeth while sleeping.
3. Getting a mouthguard.
One of the best ways to treat bruxism is with a mouthguard — a protective device that covers your teeth. They are designed for athletes as well as for people with bruxism. Sleeping with a mouthguard will prevent you from grinding your teeth and help reduce snoring. Although you can purchase a generic one at some drugstores, they are not the most effective — as they don’t take into account an individual’s dental impressions or size of their mouth. This often makes them feel bulky or regularly fall out of place. Therefore, it’s more beneficial to get a customized one made by a dentist.
If you need help with your oral health, let us help you.
At North River Dental, we have more than 30 years of experience in cosmetic dentistry. If your dental crown or filling fell out, let us help you. Contact us online or call us at (941) 722-0502 to schedule a consultation.