Grinding your teeth does far worse than make an annoying noise that can keep your partner up all night or bother your co-workers during the day. Though this is a possibility if your teeth grinding is noisy, the effects of teeth grinding go far beyond that. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can damage your teeth, cause headaches, damage your jaw, and more.
Often, people grind their teeth in their sleep, and are unaware that they are doing it. Because of this, the problem is often detected by spotting the signs of the harmful effects of teeth grinding. Once the other problems are found, the damage pattern points to the root cause of bruxism, which is the technical term for teeth grinding.
Damage to the Teeth
This is often the most telltale sign that someone grinds his or her teeth. The teeth can be worn down, flattened, chipped or cracked, or may even become loose. Tooth sensitivity is often present, as well.
Chipped and cracked teeth often need expensive restorations to put them back into a pain-free and serviceable state. WebMD mentions bridges, crowns, root canals, and even implants as possibilities.
Muscular Pain and Discomfort
Prolonged or strong teeth grinding tires the muscles of the face, neck, and jaw. These muscles often become sore from overwork. The jaw muscle can also lock up, making it hard or impossible to open or close the mouth. Damage to these muscles can also cause earache-like pain even though there is really nothing wrong with the painful ear. Headaches, especially dull ones that start in the temples, are often connected to bruxism, as well.
Sometimes, the inside of your cheek may get in the way of your grinding teeth, causing you to bite it. This typically hurts immediately, but it can also become inflamed and infected. Along with the usual problems associated with infections, this makes the inside of your cheek swell up. The swelling then puts it at even more risk of being bitten again, starting a vicious cycle of damage.
How to Protect Your Teeth from Grinding
There are two main methods for protecting your teeth from grinding. Since even daytime bruxism is usually done unconsciously, simply trying to remember not to do it is generally not going to work. A more direct approach, which does not require your conscious thought, is the most effective.
The first method is to put a mechanical barrier, known as a mouth guard or night guard, between your upper and lower teeth. This works much like a retainer, and is worn while you sleep. When you begin to unconsciously clench your teeth during this time, you end up gnawing on the mouth guard. The guard absorbs the forces, protecting your teeth and jaw muscles.
The second main option, which may be combined with the first, involves trying to alleviate the usual cause of bruxism. That cause is stress. Counseling for dealing with anxiety, starting an exercise program to release stress in a healthy way, or otherwise reducing your general stress levels can help.
Other methods are sometimes suggested for combatting bruxism. The Sleep Foundation points out that nighttime bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder, and notes that certain medications can reduce action in the jaw muscles during sleep. It also suggests cognitive behavioral therapy that is usually meant to combat insomnia, as well as therapies to better handle stress. The Sleep Foundation acknowledges the usefulness of mouth guards, too.
DenTek, a maker of flossing sticks and other drugstore oral care products, notes that if you have a habit of chewing gum, pencils, or other items during the day, it can effectively “train” you to grind and clench your teeth all the time – including while asleep. It suggests stopping these activities so that your jaws get used to being relaxed again.
What if Nothing Stops Your Bruxism?
It often takes a long time for therapies or stress-reducing life changes to bring about a complete halt to teeth grinding. For some people, the condition may be lifelong. This doesn’t mean that you are doomed to ruined teeth and a painful jaw. All it means is that you will need to continue to use methods to prevent the bruxism from causing damage.
Typically, a dentist will recommend that you continue to use a night guard for as long as your condition persists. This will keep you from hurting your teeth and straining your jaw and neck muscles as you sleep. Since most harmful bruxism happens at this time, the mouth guard is usually all that is needed to keep damage from occurring.
Get Help for Your Teeth Grinding Now
If you grind or clench your teeth, whether during the daytime or while asleep, contact a dentist for advice and solutions tailored for you. The dental office of Kawveh Nofallah, DMD offers solutions for teeth grinding in Lakeland, Florida. Our experienced dentist will evaluate the history of your bruxism, and help protect your teeth with a night guard. Schedule an appointment today.
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