Many people grind their teeth at night, so it may be tempting to think of it as normal or harmless. When it occurs occasionally, teeth grinding, or bruxism, does not usually result in damage to the teeth, but if it occurs on a regular basis, it can be harmful, not to mention be a sign of underlying problems.
Signs of Bruxism
A partner or roommate might tell you that you grind your teeth at night. Other indicators include:
- Soreness of the jaw
- Jaw tenderness
- Excessive wear on teeth
Some of these can be easily detected on your own, such as if you wake up with a dull headache. If you suspect you grind your teeth at night on a regular basis, visit your dentist, who can detect other signs of bruxism, including abnormal wear and tear on your teeth.
Effects of Bruxism
The most obvious effect of chronic bruxism is the stress it places on your teeth. Enamel gradually wears down, making teeth more sensitive and prone to fracture. In some extreme cases, violent grinding could crack or chip the tooth on its own. More commonly, however, the wear simply grinds away at the surfaces of your teeth, leading to issues with fractures and breaks later on.
Grinding also affects your temporomandibular joints, which connect your jaw to your skull. This causes a conditions called TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), which affects the way the joint functions. You may experience jaw pain, stiffness, clicking, popping, sticking, headaches, reduced range of motion, and improper bite.
Indicator of Other Problems
So far, we’ve looked at only the results of bruxism, but the bad news doesn’t stop there. Teeth clenching and grinding are also likely a sign of something else going wrong. Often, it is caused by stress or anxiety, which causes muscles in your jaws to tense up while you’re sleeping. Unhealthy levels of stress will lead to other health problems, so it’s important to implement stress management techniques if this is the case.
Other causes include abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crooked teeth, all of which stress your teeth and jaws in their own ways and make chewing more complicated. Bruxism may also be a sign of sleep apnea in some cases.
Bruxism can be treated through various dentistry procedures. In many cases, the use of a fitted oral appliance can treat resulting TMJ disorders and prevent teeth from grinding together. For a dental consultation to discuss treatment options, contact us at Lynn Dental Care for the skilled and personalized diagnosis and treatment you need.