Bruxism and Teeth Grinding

Woman with tooth pain due to bruxism

Have you noticed yourself grinding, gnashing, or clenching your teeth? If so, you have developed a poor habit that could potentially affect your dental health. Teeth grinding/clenching, also known as bruxism, is a common condition among 30 million to 40 million adults and children. Most who do it not even aware when it’s happening. It can certainly be a tough habit to break.

If left unchecked, however, bruxism can lead to headaches, cracking of your teeth, and disorders in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Fortunately, there are solutions. If you admit to being guilty of teeth grinding, please keep reading to learn more about what causes it, how to tell when you’re doing it, and how to stop. If you seek an appointment to discuss the issue, we encourage you to call The Center for Cosmetic Dentistry at (631) 982-9669.

Types and Causes of Bruxism?

Essentially, there are two main classes of bruxism, both of which can range from mild to severe:

Sleep bruxism is exactly what it sounds like, grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep. Typically, someone with this condition will grind their teeth between 5 to 15 seconds throughout the night. There is no consistent pattern, as sleep bruxism can also stop for long periods. Such individuals are more likely to other sleep disorders as well, including snoring and sleep apnea (pauses in breathing).

Daytime or Awake bruxism is equally self-explanatory and commonly caused by stress such as when performing physical labor (Ex- lifting heavy objects). It is also often attributed to anxiety.

Bruxism has been known to be a side-effect of some psychiatric medications (Ex- certain antidepressants) too. Smoking tobacco, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, or recreational drugs may put you at greater risk. It can even be related to specific mental health and medical disorders like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), epilepsy, night-terrors, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Symptoms of Bruxism

  • Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your partner during sleep
  • Teeth that appear flattened, fractured, chipped, cracked, or loose
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing the deeper underlying layers of one or multiple teeth
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles
  • Increased tooth pain and sensitivity
  • A locked jaw that won’t fully open or close
  • Pain or soreness in your jaw, neck, or face
  • Swelling can rarely be present on the inside of your lower jaw, usually caused by chronic clenching. Once you stop clenching, the swelling typically goes away on its own over time
  • Pain that feels like an earache but is not a problem with your ears
  • Dull headache beginning in your temples, such as when waking up in the morning
  • Sleep disruption
  • Rhythmic contractions of your jaw muscles
  • Signs of damage or bleeding from chewing on the inside of your cheek

Treatment Options

The first step to determining your treatment is by finding out whether the source of the problem is stress or dental issues. Depending on the diagnosis, the direction for treatment will be different.

If it’s the former, one possibility is wearing a custom-made mouth guard or splint (constructed from harder plastic) at night. These even out the pressure across your jaw, creating a safe barrier between your upper & lower teeth to prevent grinding and noise during sleep.

If your teeth grinding is stress or anxiety-related, psychological treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be recommended. Another option is performing several exercises to help you relax before bed (yoga, deep breathing, relaxing music, massage, deep breathing, bath). If you are experiencing persisting jaw pain and want to schedule a visit to The Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, remember to call us at (631) 982-9669.