Do you ever grind your teeth when you’re feeling stressed or concentrating deeply on something? Many people do, often without even realizing they’re doing it. It’s usually not a problem, but excessive teeth grinding can create serious health issues. Here are some of the dangers you may face and how to know when it’s time to see a dentist.
Recognizing The Problem
Doctors sometimes refer to grinding your teeth as bruxism. Bruxism can occur while people are awake, often when they’re feeling anxious, stressed out, tense or frustrated. But it can also occur while people are asleep, a condition known as sleep bruxism. You can suffer from sleep bruxism even if you don’t usually grind your teeth while you’re awake.
So, if you’re grinding your teeth while fast asleep, how do you know it’s happening? The warning signs to look out for include:
- Pain in your neck or face
- Frequent headaches or earaches
- Increased tooth sensitivity caused by worn down enamel
- Inability to stay asleep throughout the night
- Chipped or loose teeth
- TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, which causes stiffness and pain in your jaw
Without treatment, severe teeth grinding can damage your teeth, crowns or fillings and could even cause you to lose teeth.
No one knows for sure why some people experience serious bruxism. There are multiple factors that can put you at an increased risk, including:
- High levels of stress or anxiety
- Certain medications, including some antidepressants
- Having another sleep disorder, particularly sleep apnea
- Drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol
- Issues with your bite, such as crooked or missing teeth
- A family history of teeth grinding
Because grinding your teeth can be caused by different things, there’s not a one-size fits all treatment. When it’s related to an underlying dental problem or sleep disorder, addressing that problem may take care of it. Other people may need to try different strategies to reduce their bruxism or limit the damage it causes.
Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep use a mouth guard (also called a night guard), a device similar to a retainer that fits over your top and bottom rows of teeth. You can buy one over the counter or see your dentist for a custom-fit option. Custom mouth guards will fit better and are less likely to slide off while you’re asleep.
If the problem is related to stress or anxiety, ask your dentist or doctor if they can recommend some coping techniques. Exercise, deep breathing routines, meditation and counseling have all helped people manage their stress levels.
If you tend to grind your teeth during the day, you can train yourself to be more aware of when you’re doing it. Try putting your tongue between your teeth when you catch yourself grinding them to break the habit.
Dental Solutions in an Anxiety-Free Environment
If you’re experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity that may be related to teeth grinding, LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS is here to help. We combine extensive experience with the latest technology to provide world-class dental solutions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.