Did you know that about one in three adults experience bruxism? When it comes to grinding your teeth, this often unconscious and seemingly innocuous habit is something your mouth and jaw can do without, and it is known as bruxism. It is essentially a harmful habit where you repeatedly clench and grind your teeth, leaving them and your jaw sore and damaged. As you can imagine, this can damage your teeth and jaw joints, your TMJ’s, and temporomandibular jaw joints.
Don’t Ignore Teeth Grinding
Bruxism will gradually wear down tooth enamel, making them more vulnerable to decay. It is because constant teeth grinding weakens tooth enamel, breaking down the cementum, which is softer than tooth enamel. Cracks in your teeth can lead you to need a root canal, dental crown or even extraction of the affected tooth. Teeth grinding also can compromise any implants you have already.
And then there’s the matter of your jaw joints that also become worn down, leaving you with jaw pain and stiffness. So, what causes clenching and grinding of your teeth? It is a combination of physical and psychological causes.
Potential Triggers for Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding
- Psychological triggers include stress, anxiety or nervous tension
- Misalignment of your teeth
- Flattened teeth, tooth sensitivity or cracked teeth
- Receding gum line
- Consuming stimulants like caffeine (colas, chocolate, coffee), alcohol and antidepressants, tranquilizers, and drugs for asthma
- Using grinding and clenching as a coping mechanism
- Having a sleep disorder (sleep apnea)
- An inability to relax or destress
- In children, a reaction to an earache or teething
But if you sleep alone, how do you know that you’re grinding your teeth at night? Telltale signs include the following:
- Waking up in pain from tightness in your jaw
- Waking up with muscle fatigue in your jaw
- Having trouble opening your mouth or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) inflammation
- Waking up with headaches, facial pain or neck pain
- Your teeth hurt when you chew
- Noticeable wear or chips on your teeth
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help eliminate this destructive habit.
- Wear a custom or occlusal night guard while you sleep to cushion the teeth and jaw.
- Forgo drinking excessive caffeine consumption that can leave you stressed at night.
- Avoid drinking alcohol as it can trigger the urge to grind your teeth.
- Don’t chew on anything but food, and keep in mind that pens and pencils aren’t food!
- Practice destressing techniques like gentle, deep breathing to help you relax and ease tired muscles an hour before bedtime.
- Experiment with simple jaw exercises that strengthen your jaw muscles and relieve jaw pain.
Simple exercises you can do to strengthen your jaw and help it to relax:
- Put your thumb below your chin and open and close your mouth.
- Place your forefinger and your thumb to the front of your chin. Next, push your jaw out.
- Place your tongue onto the roof of your mouth and open and close your mouth.
- Put your finger in your mouth, and then let your jaw become slack.
Exercising your body regularly also supports your stress management efforts. An exercise routine at least twice a week can give your immune system and circulatory system a boost. It may even improve your quality of sleep.
Bruxism doesn’t have to destroy your jaw or your quality of life. Our experienced team has TMJ treatment options that can protect your jaw and your smile. We welcome you to reach out and get the help you need managing your jaw health and overall health! Call us today for more information.