01 Oct The Unexpected Consequences of Grinding Your Teeth
Nearly 40 million Americans grind their teeth at night without realizing they are doing so. Clenching and grinding can make the simple act of eating a piece of toast uncomfortable. Over time these actions can have detrimental consequences on your teeth and jawbone. Here are signs you may be clenching your teeth and ways to stop it from happening.
Clenching and Grinding
Teeth grinding usually occurs during sleep. Known as bruxism, it is an unconscious action in which we gnash, grind, or clench our teeth. Some people have no symptoms, whereas others may experience a sore jaw, headache, or suffer from a continuous restless sleep. Other symptoms may include difficulty chewing, temperature sensitivity, tooth discoloration, as well as fractures in the enamel.
Stress and anxiety account for 70% of teeth grinding, but this condition can also be caused by other issues including a misaligned bite, missing teeth, or sleep disorder. The first step in determining the reason for teeth grinding is a visit to the dentist.
The Effects of Stress On Your Mouth
Stress is at an all-time high with concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Each time we clench our jaw, the back molars exert up to 200 pounds per square inch, ten times more than when we chew. A locked jaw is strong enough to bend metal. Clenching and grinding wears down the enamel leaving the inner dentin exposed. Exposed dentinal tubes can cause sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures as well as biting hard foods like chips.
Without enamel to protect teeth, germs and bacteria get in, causing decay and cavities. More serious issues like gum disease can take root below the gumline. Not always visible on the surface, gum disease can evolve into periodontal disease – a systemic disease that negatively affects whole-body health.
Long-term grinding and clenching create constant pressure on jaw muscles and tissue. Ignored too long, this tension can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that causes acute pain in the jaw if not addressed. The good news is you do not need to suffer.
Some Simple Solutions
When nights consist of tossing and turning, consider these tips for a sounder sleep:
- Limit caffeine during the day and eliminate it in the evening
- Allow a minimum of two hours after eating before going to bed
- Reduce alcohol consumption and smoking
- Turn off the TV
In some cases, the inability to fall asleep may be due to a sleep disorder. Visit your dentist or physician to identify the reason for restless sleep.
Overwhelmed by stress and anxiety? Consider relaxation techniques to quiet the mind:
- Turn off the TV and social media to limit the intake of negative news
- Take deep mindful breaths in a quiet space – learn yoga or meditation
- Enjoy self-care: a nice walk, a warm bath, a good book
- Reach out to friends whom you trust
- Eat three healthy meals daily to fuel your mind and body
If feelings of stress lead to constant depression, reach out for assistance.
Using A Night Guard For A Restful Sleep
Night guards are made from a special plastic that offers durability that can sustain the bite force and grinding of teeth. The night guard creates contact between the upper jaw and lower front teeth, preventing back teeth from enamel-on-enamel touching and reduces tension on jaw muscles
The most important step in wearing a night guard is custom fit. Retail stores offer a range of night guards, however, a night guard that has not been designed for the shape of your jaw and teeth may cause further damage. A night guard created by a dentist considers jaw size, tooth positioning, and severity of grinding. The process is easy with the dental hygienist taking a mold of your upper teeth. When properly cared for, a fitted night guard can last for an extended period of time.
Keeping You Healthy and Safe
When sleep is interrupted or you wake with a headache and facial tension, it is time to make a call. Amid the stress and uncertainty of these times, we remain committed to your safety, health, and wellness. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.