Have you ever been concentrating on something, maybe at work or school, and suddenly noticed that you were grinding your teeth? Have you ever woken up with a sore mouth and jaw? If so, you’re probably one of the many people out there suffering from some form of bruxism – aka teeth grinding.
Don’t panic: this condition is incredibly common. In fact, an estimated 70% of people (including 15 to 30% of children) grind their teeth, usually at night when they don’t even notice it.
While bruxism is a regular occurrence, it can cause some problems for your oral health. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of teeth grinding and take steps to stop it.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
As we said, most people who grind their teeth don’t do so consciously. Most folks grind their teeth in their sleep, or while focusing on an important task. This is because bruxism is primarily caused by stress.
Of course, there are other triggers that can cause someone to grind their teeth. Smoking, alcohol use, and excess caffeine have been known to cause grinding. Sleep apnea is also a contributing factor.
Although teeth grinding is usually an unconscious behavior, it can have very real consequences for your teeth. Grinding can result in fractured, broken, or lose teeth – and, if left untreated long enough, it can cause your teeth to wear down into stumps! Grinding can also cause a lot of pain (particularly for people with TMJ) and can make things like chewing more difficult over time.
Signs and Symptoms
If most people grind their teeth in their sleep, how does anyone know that they have it? Honestly, at first it’s hard to know for sure. Your teeth won’t show any obvious signs of wear until you’ve been grinding them for a very LONG TIME.
However, people who suspect they may have bruxism can look for a few warning signs. Firstly, people who grind their teeth at night often wake up to a sore mouth and tight jaw muscles. If you wake up feeling like your jaw has been working all night, it’s time to call your dentist.
Another warning sign is increased tooth pain and sensitivity. As your teeth are ground down, more of the protective enamel is worn away – leaving sensitive nerves more exposed to food and drink. This will cause your teeth to become much more sensitive.
How to Stop Grinding
Once you suspect that you are grinding your teeth, it’s time to work on breaking that habit. This isn’t always easy (it’s hard to break a habit you aren’t doing consciously), but trust us: your teeth will thank you!
Here are a few ideas that can help prevent bruxism:
Cut Back on Triggers
Have you been up late worrying about a work project? Are you spending a few too many nights out at the bar? Think about your daily habits – including your stress level, alcohol and caffeine intake, and other aspects – and try to eliminate those elements that can cause bruxism. Stopping the “nightly grind” could be as easy as changing your habits!
Invest in a Mouth Guard
If your tooth grinding just won’t stop, it might be best to invest some kind of bite guard. There are many ready-made varieties available in stores, but you can also order custom-made guards from your dentist. This little piece of plastic will prevent your teeth from rubbing together. This way, even if the grinding keeps happening, your teeth are protected.
Talk to Your Dentist
Finally, one of the best ways to learn how to deal with bruxism is to simply talk to your dentist. He or she can look at your teeth up close and personal and tell you the best preventative care options for your personal situation.
If you need to make an appointment with a dentist, there’s no time like the present! Call Valley Dental Care in Aurora or Oswego today to make your appointment.