Bruxism: A Guide For Grinders And Clenchers

Grinding or clenching your teeth at night is more than just a bad habit that annoys your partner. Thisbehavior, which is known as bruxism, can have a lasting negative impact on your dental health. If you arewaking up in the morning with a sore jaw or if someone has told you that you're grinding your teeth at night,it's time to take action and work on breaking this habit.

What Are the Consequences of Bruxism?

How badly your teeth and jaw suffer as a result of bruxism depends on how often you engage in thebehavior, how long you wait before addressing it, and the hardness of your tooth enamel. Some bruxismpatients develop all of these problems, while others only develop one or two.

TMJ Pain

Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint between your lower jaw bone and the portion of yourskull located just under your ear. Grinding and clenching your teeth can irritate this joint, leading to anarray of symptoms from headaches, to ear pain, to limited jaw mobility. TMJ pain can be extremelydebilitating and difficult to treat.

Enamel Erosion

Grinding your teeth can weaken your enamel and leave you prone to cavities. If you currently have fillingsin the chewing surfaces of your teeth, the grinding may loosen or chip them. Weak, eroded enamelalso leaves you prone to tooth sensitivity, so you may feel discomfort when eating cold and hot foods.

Misaligned Teeth

Grinding and clenching can undo all of the hard work your braces did when you were younger. You may noticethat your teeth start rotating or shifting in one direction until you have a new gap or two teeth startoverlapping.

Fractured and Chipped Teeth

Fractured or chipped teeth sometimes need to be covered with a crown to prevent future damage. If youdon't notice the crack or chip promptly, decay may set in, and the tooth may ultimately require extraction.

What Steps Can You Take To Stop the Grinding and Clenching?

Talk to your dentist as soon as you realize you're grinding and clenching your teeth. They will work withyou to determine what's causing your bruxism, and based on the likely causes, recommend one or more of thesetreatments.

Mouth Guard

Regardless of the cause of your bruxism, your dentist will likely recommend wearing a mouth guard to bed.This ensures that if you do clench and move your jaw, your teeth are at least protected. Your dentist can fityou for a specialized mouth guard in their office.

Changing Medications

Bruxism can be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants and other mood alteringdrugs. If you're taking a medication that lists bruxism as a side effect, your dentist may collaborate withthe doctor who prescribed the medication to either change your dose or switch you to another medication thatis less likely to perpetuate this behavior.

Stress Relief Tactics

In many cases, bruxism is caused or made worse by stress. Your dentist may recommend taking some measuresto lower your stress levels, especially before bedtime. These may include practicing meditation for 15 or 30minutes per day, adopting an exercise routine, and seeing a counselor to discuss situations that make youfeel tense and stressed out.

Muscle Relaxers

In severe cases, your dentist may prescribe a muscle relaxing medication for you to take at bedtime. Thisshould help prevent you from clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth at night. Usually, this is used as atemporary measure when you are suffering from severe effects of the bruxism, such as TMJ pain that makes itdifficult to eat and speak properly.

Don't ignore bruxism and hope it goes away on its own. The consequences to your dental health can beserious, so reach out to a local dentist today ifyou believe you may be grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night.