Bruxism and Beyond: Dealing with Teeth Grinding and Clenching

Oct 24, 2023

If you find yourself clenching your jaw during the day or if you wake up with sensitive teeth, a painful jaw, or a headache, you may be suffering from bruxism—grinding, clenching, or gnashing of the teeth. Most people are unaware that they grind their teeth while sleeping. Some people clench their teeth when they are agitated, trying to concentrate, or nervous.

Signs of teeth grinding

  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Audible grinding sounds
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Jaw pain or discomfort
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain in the cheeks and ears that radiates to the neck and shoulders
  • Frequent headaches
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Stiff or locked jaw
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Cheek biting
  • Changes in alignment of the tooth due to consistent pressure

Teeth grinding in children

Many parents have probably heard their kids grinding their teeth at one point or another, frequently when they are sleeping. However, because children's teeth and jaws develop and change so fast, it's not often an unhealthy habit that has to be treated, and most outgrow it as they get older. Some potential risk factors associated with tooth grinding in children include:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Hyperactivity disorders
  • Sleep apnea or chronic snoring
  • Misaligned teeth or jaw
  • Bite problems
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Certain neurological conditions, such as Bell's palsy

How is bruxism treated?

While there are no specific medications designed to halt tooth grinding, your dentist can provide a solution in the form of a night guard. This custom-made orthotic device is inserted into your mouth before sleep to shield your teeth, muscles, and temporomandibular joints (TMJs) from the pressure generated by grinding. Additionally, your healthcare provider might recommend a muscle relaxant to be taken before bedtime.

Strategies to reduce tooth grinding

  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques
  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Limit jaw clenching
  • Avoiding hard, tough foods
  • Physical therapy
  • Warm compresses to relax the jaw muscles

Dealing with bruxism can be a challenging but manageable endeavor. Regular visits to your dentist are essential in monitoring the effects of bruxism on your oral health. They can provide the most accurate and effective guidance for managing bruxism.

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