Do you wake up with a headache or sore jaw? Do you experience headaches or facial pain? Do you find that your teeth are becoming more sensitive or even starting to crack? If so, you may be grinding your teeth without even realizing it. This condition is called bruxism, and it’s a surprisingly common problem.
But what exactly is bruxism? And what can be done to treat it? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about teeth grinding.
What Is Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding and clenching your teeth. It usually occurs at night while you are sleeping, but many people may do it during the day as well. People often don’t realize they’re grinding their teeth because it can happen unconsciously, especially when asleep.
There are two types of bruxism, sleep bruxism (SB) and awake bruxism (AB).
Sleep bruxism is clenching, grinding, or gnashing of the teeth while you sleep. According to one study, approximately 13% of adults experience sleep bruxism. It is not clear what exactly causes sleep bruxism, but it has been linked to psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. People with sleep-related bruxism often have a family member with the condition as well.
Awake bruxism is clenching or grinding your teeth while you are awake. This type of bruxism tends to occur during stressful or anxious moments. It is estimated that approximately 21-31% of adults experience awake bruxism.
Bruxism in adults is often caused by stress, while bruxism in children can be caused by any number of things, such as allergies, crooked teeth, misalignment in the jaw, or sleep apnea. Children often outgrow it as they age, but for some, it may continue into adolescence.
Signs You May Be Grinding Your Teeth
Here are a few of the most common signs of bruxism:
- Unusual wear of tooth enamel and/or cracking of the teeth
- Jaw pain, especially when opening and closing the mouth
- Pain in the temples or ear
- Headaches after waking up
- Difficulty sleeping or snoring due to involuntary jaw movement during sleep
- Stiffness in facial muscles, particularly in the morning
- Grinding or clicking sound when opening and closing the jaw
- Facial pain
- Tooth damage
Teeth grinding and clenching cause the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) to become inflamed and painful. Signs of TM joint disorder include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint
- Neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Facial numbness and tingling
There are a few things you can do to relieve symptoms caused by teeth grinding.
- Avoid foods that are difficult to chew, such as tough meats or hard candy
- Practice relaxation techniques (such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing)
- Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen
- Use a warm compress on your jaw muscles
- Massage your jaw muscles gently
- Practice good posture to relieve stress in the neck and shoulder muscles
- Cut back on habits like chewing gum or biting your nails
- Wear a custom-fit night guard
3 Exercises to Loosen Tight Jaws
Jaw opening exercises: Warm up your jaw muscles by opening and closing your mouth several times. Using one hand, gently pull down on your bottom teeth until you feel a good stretch, hold for 30 seconds and then close your mouth. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
Jaw joint stretch: Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and open your jaw as wide as possible. Stop when you feel pain. Open and close your jaw 10 times.
Chin tuck: Stand against a wall with your shoulders back and your head in alignment with your spine. Tuck in your chin slightly, creating a double chin. Hold for 3 seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Take Action Now
Don’t wait to seek treatment if you think you might be grinding your teeth at night. The sooner you see a dentist, the sooner you can get relief from your symptoms and protect your smile from further damage! Schedule a dental exam at Dewitt Dental Associates in Denver, CO. Call (303) 321-5656 or complete the online booking form. We look forward to helping you with all your oral care needs.