Many people grind their teeth occasionally for various reasons. When it happens only once in a while, it usually causes no harm to your teeth or jaw. However, when it becomes chronic, your teeth can be damaged, and there may be other complications. About 8 percent of adults, and about 13 percent of children grind their teeth, according to the Canadian Sleep Society.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, the medical term, often occurs while you sleep, and can be caused by various factors. There can be physical, psychological, or genetic causes. They may include:
• Stress and anxiety;
• An abnormal bite;
• Missing teeth;
• Crooked teeth;
• A sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
It does tend to run in families, so if a family member grinds their teeth, you probably have an increased risk. If it happens during sleep, how do you know if you grind your teeth? There are some telltale signs:
• A sore jaw when you wake in the morning;
• A constant, low grade headache;
• Damage to the inside of the cheek from the chewing action;
• Tooth sensitivity;
• Your jaw is tender.
Your dentist will examine your teeth to look for other signs such as too much wear on your teeth, and x-rays may be required to determine the extent of any damage.
What Will Happen If I Continue To Grind My Teeth?
Regular or chronic grinding of the teeth can cause a great deal of damage, and not just to the teeth themselves.
• It can loosen, crack, or fracture teeth;
• Excessive wear on teeth, even down to stumps;
• Damage to jaw;
• Cause or worsen TMD or Temporomandibular disorders, or problems with the movement of the jaw, including
• TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint disorderDamage to crowns or other existing dental work.
What Can I Do to Stop Grinding My Teeth?
Your dentist can help you verify that you are grinding your teeth, prevent further damage, and treat any damage that has already occurred. There are many treatment options, depending on your individual case.
• A mouth guard will protect your teeth as you sleep. Your dentist can custom fit one to your mouth.
• Crowns, bridges, or other restorative procedures may be necessary to fix existing damage.
• Crooked or missing teeth can be restored/replaced.
Other potentially helpful treatments may involve areas outside dentistry per se.
• Stress counselling;
• Exercise, or seeing a physical therapist, which reduces stress;
• Muscle relaxants by prescription.
There are other things you can do on your own to help alleviate the problem.
• Cut down on or avoid caffeine, including coffee and chocolate;
• Avoid alcohol – this tends to worsen teeth grinding;
• Avoid chewing on pencils, nails, or anything that is not food;
• Avoid chewing gum, which trains your jaw muscles to clench;
• Stay hydrated – there is some evidence it may be linked to dehydration;
• Train your jaw muscles to relax by placing the tip of your tongue between your front teeth;
• Hold a warm washcloth to your cheek and jaw just before bed to help relax the muscles.
In children, the problem often resolves itself as they grow, and even in adults, in many cases it is not severe enough to require treatment. But, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, we urge you to get professional help.
If you are looking for advice on teeth grinding, or any aspect of dental health or dental hygiene, your dentist is the right person to ask. You’ll find the answer at Dr. Robert Axelrad’s Dental Office in Brampton, ON.
If you’re looking for a well-regarded and highly skilled dentist in the Brampton area, make an appointment with Dr. Robert Axelrad by calling (905)-791-3867. Visit our website to learn more about our dental services.