The grinding or clenching of the teeth, also known as bruxism, can be a habit or the start of reflex chewing activity. According to recent statistics, about one in four of dental patients suffers from some type of bruxism. While varying in intensity, grinding or clenching teeth must be addressed quickly, as a range of dental and muscle effects may come without treatment. Some of the most notable dental effects are teeth sensitivity, headaches, tense muscles, jaw pain, jaw imbalances, stress fractures in the teeth. In addition, muscle effects include all sorts of headaches from migraine to tension type to sinus to allergy, temporomandibular join pain (TMJ), tinnitus, and pericranial tenderness (tender feelings around the head). All in all, grinding your teeth stresses out your muscles at night and can have painful results.
While grinding and clenching triggers range drastically from person to person, some are far more common than others. The most common triggers include:
- Eye strain
- Daytime stress
- Sinus infection
- Disturbed sleep pattern
- Digestive problems
- High anxiety
- Weather changes
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hormonal change
- Caffeine withdrawals
Treatment for these things can be as simple as changing diet or reducing stress levels. However, in more serious cases the dentist will work with the patient to learn how to rest the teeth, tongue, and lips properly. In doing so, discomfort is relieved and the mouth is re-trained to rest appropriately. If these starter methods are unsuccessful, a dentist will often suggest that a night-guard or occlusal splint is worn at night. These plastic mouth appliances will serve to absorb the force that comes with grinding, creating a barrier between the top and bottom teeth.
Being aware of the most common symptoms of teeth grinding is important to catch the problem quickly. While occasional grinding is typically not harming, grinding on a regular basis can really damage the teeth in additional to causing other health complications. The following are the most common signs that you are grinding your teeth:
- Worn down teeth
- Sore teeth, gums, jaw, and face
- Tips of teeth appear flat
- Enamel begins to rub off
- Indentations in tongue from clenching
Regularly visiting the dentist is the best way to catch teeth grinding or clenching before it becomes a painful problem. If you feel that you may be grinding your teeth it is important to contact your dentist, even if it is in between your regularly scheduled checkups.