man_with_broken_jawHave you ever wondered if you grind your teeth? This is an oral health complication dental hygienists deal with all of the time – the aftereffects of teeth grinding, medically referred to as bruxism. Most people grind their teeth at one time or another. They are aware of doing it when they’re stressed or anxious, but for most people it happens more often while they are asleep. In fact, it’s very possible your loved ones will know that you grind your teeth in your sleep before you will the same way they’ll know if you snore – they’ll hear you.

However, over time grinding your teeth can result in problems with your teeth, jaw, and face. What kinds of problems? Have you experienced any of the following:

  • Neck pain
  • Jaw or face pain
  • Jaw clicking
  • Earaches or pain below your ears
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Dull headaches after you wake

Of these the ones that usually alert people to the problem are the dull constant headache and the sore jaws – which makes sense because these are both caused by muscles tensing or contracting for prolonged periods of time. Loose teeth and tooth sensitivity can be bigger issues down the line, however. When people grind their teeth steadily over time, it wears those teeth down. This is another tell: if your teeth are level and flat, it’s probably because they’ve been ground that way over time. Sometimes there is also a white line on the inside of either or both cheeks and your tongue can develop a “scalloped” appearance on the sides.

Teeth that are subject to pressure can crack, loosen, or even fall out. Of these, tooth loss is the outcome people fear the most, but any of them can result in more complicated solutions like bridges, crowns, implants, root canals, and partial or even complete dentures.

What can you do to prevent teeth grinding? The simplest solution is to wear a mouthguard at night. This will prevent contact between the teeth, although it will not prevent the clenching. If stress is a problem for you, that is an issue that may have a number of causes from work or lifestyle to underlying psychological issues. Discuss your options for reducing stress with your family doctor.

Otherwise, your dentist may advise you to limit caffeine or alcohol and avoid chewing anything whether that is gum or a pencil. If you have a chewing habit, breaking it will help you to stop grinding your teeth at night. Relaxing, either with exercise, a hot bath, or even a hot cloth held to your jaw before bed is another possible solution.

If you are concerned about teeth grinding or experiencing pain and discomfort from it, please ask your dentist at your next cleaning or appointment. Maintaining your best oral health is important and is more than simply brushing and flossing, so don’t live with a problem you can address and fix.