One of the more common oral habits is grinding your teeth, particularly during the night. While in many cases, this is associated with occasional bouts of stress or anxiety and is relatively harmless. When the condition (called bruxism) becomes a regular habit, it can cause damage. When left unchecked, regular teeth grinding can actually damage your teeth to the point of loss or causing TMJ. How do you know that you are grinding your teeth, and how can you address it to make sure it isn’t a long-term issue?
Identifying Teeth Grinding Behavior
For the vast majority of people, teeth grinding isn’t a conscious behavior; it’s not something that we are intentionally doing. Even more so, it’s a behavior that often occurs during sleep, meaning it’s not something we even know we are doing. In fact, normally, we notice the effects of it after the fact. Some of the symptoms of tooth grinding include a nearly constant headache, particularly a dull one, or a jaw that exhibits soreness. If you share a bed with someone, they will occasionally even report hearing the grinding during the night.
However, none of these things can conclusively diagnose bruxism. If you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist and then we can examine your teeth and look for the telltale evidence of grinding and lead us to the next steps for treatment.
Immediate Treatment for Bruxism
The good news is that we can treat the behavior of teeth grinding very quickly, providing effective relief in short order. To do that, we can fit you with a mouth guard, specifically for nighttime. This can protect your teeth immediately and relieve the pain and discomfort that comes along with it. While this treatment is effective quickly, it can also be helpful for treating any underlying causes of bruxism.
Get to the Root Cause of Teeth Grinding
For most people, the behavior of teeth grinding is closely tied to stress or anxiety. Treating any stress can help halt the bruxism long term. In our office, we can teach you some basic stress relief techniques that can help alleviate the behavior. However, activities like exercise or seeking stress reduction therapy can also help.
During the treatment process, there are several behavioral adjustments you can make that will make bruxism better. Consumption of caffeine (particularly in the afternoon) or alcohol can both exacerbate teeth grinding and cutting back can alleviate the pain associated with it. In addition, ensuring that you only chew on food can help; any habitual chewing can make the problem worse. Lastly, relaxing your jaw before sleep can also be a big help. To do this, we recommend using a warm washcloth on your face to jumpstart the relaxation.
If you feel you might be suffering the ill effects of nighttime teeth grinding, we’d be happy to help you identify any issues and get you on the road to recovery. Contact us today!