Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Unconsciously grinding, gnashing, or clenching your teeth is a condition called Bruxism. Some people do it when awake, this is “awake bruxism.” If you grind your teeth in the night it is, you guessed it, “sleep bruxism.” This form of bruxism is common in young children, but usually goes away as they get older. Sleep bruxism is an actual sleep disorder (a sleep-related movement disorder). Many who deal with bruxism are also susceptible to other sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea.
If mild enough, bruxism may not need to be treated. But severe forms of it can cause some painful conditions. If untreated it can cause strong headaches, jaw problems, and (here is where the dentist comes in) damaged teeth and mouth injuries.
Signs of Bruxism
Many with sleep bruxism do not know they have it because they are asleep. It can be loud enough to wake you up from your sleep but other signs that you do it may include:
- Teeth that are flattened, cracked, chipped or loose
- Worn tooth enamel
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Soar jaw muscles
- Mouth does not open or close properly
- Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness
- Earache that radiates from the jaw
- Dull headache starting in the temples
- Cheek damage on the inside of the mouth
Doctors do not understand exactly why bruxism happens and can only make educated guesses. But awake bruxism seams to be related to stress and anxiety. Sleep bruxis may be related to disturbed sleep.
What to do?
Your dentist checks for signs of bruxism during regular checkups, but if you think you might be grinding your teeth, let your dentist know. Over the next few visits, he will be able to determine if it is serious enough to need treatment. One treatment may be a mouthguard that protects your teeth. Others could include medication or a referral to a sleep specialist.