Bruxism is the medical term for the unconscious grinding, gnashing, or clenching of your teeth.
For most people, a little bruxism is normal and nothing to worry about, but when it occurs regularly (especially during sleep) it can cause damage to your teeth and overall health.
Common symptoms of bruxism
Grinding your teeth too often can lead to many health problems, including:
- Jaw pain
- Chronic headaches
- Tooth pain
- Loss of teeth
In extreme cases it can cause hearing loss and changes in the shape of your face.
How do I know if I have bruxism?
Since a lot of teeth grinding occurs unconsciously while we sleep, it can be hard to identify. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, particularly right after you wake up, ask your dentist if bruxism might be the cause.
Another clue is if a loved one who you share a bed with hears your teeth grinding in the night. You may also record yourself sleeping to check for grinding sounds.
Ways to combat bruxism
The first step to combatting bruxism is awareness. The ideal at-rest positioning of your teeth is:
- Lips closed
- Teeth separated slightly
- Tongue behind the teeth (sometimes placing the tongue between the teeth can help as well)
Consciously resting your teeth like this will help rest the muscles in your mouth, eventually training your muscles to relax.
Other tips to help combat bruxism include:
- Avoid coffee and alcohol
- Don’t chew on objects like pencils or pens
- Help your jaw relax by placing a warm, damp washcloth across your face
Stress is a common cause of bruxism, and so finding ways to relieve stress in your life can help as well. Seek professional advice from your doctor or a therapist if you need help reducing stress.
Ways a dentist can help with bruxism
A dentist can give you a mouth guard to wear while you sleep, or prescribe muscle relaxants to help you stop grinding your teeth at night. Other treatment options, such as crowns or onlays, can align your teeth better and help reduce grinding.
If you think you are suffering from bruxism, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.