Do you grind your teeth or clench your jaws at night? Dentists and other medical professionals refer to this habit as bruxism – and it's not a habit to be proud of. Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth can have serious consequences for your dental health and overall health. Here's a closer look, along with some tips for putting an end to your bruxism.
What are the consequences of bruxism?
Worn tooth enamel: Constantly grinding and clenching the teeth can wear down the enamel. This makes cavities and tooth decay more likely. You're especially likely to experience cavities along the chewing surfaces of your teeth, and these can be painful when you chew.
Jaw soreness: TMJ pain and general jaw achiness are often caused or made worse by bruxism. If you wake up with a sore jaw that makes it hard to eat or talk, no amount of pain relievers is going to permanently eliminate the problem as long as you keep grinding your teeth. The grinding and clenching motion is very hard on the muscles and bones in your jaw; that's what leads to the pain.
Migraines and headaches: All of the stiffness and soreness in your jaw can radiate up into your neck muscles. Tightness in the neck muscles can lead to headaches and even full-blown migraines.
Tooth misalignments: Clenching and grinding can push certain teeth out of place. You may eventually need braces of invisible aligners to straighten them.
How is bruxism treated?
Mouth guards: One of the first things you should do if you suspect you suffer from bruxism is visit your dentist and request to be fitted with a mouth guard. This guard will be custom shaped for your teeth, and it will keep them separated at night so you can't grind or clench.
Stress relief: For many people, bruxism is a habit that's brought on by stress. If you can reduce your stress levels before bed, you'll be less likely to grind. Try meditating for 30 minutes before bedtime. You could also listen to soothing music as you drift off to sleep. Add some more exercise to your daily routine, as exercising can help keep stress levels low overall.
Grinding your teeth at night is more than just an annoying habit that keeps your partner awake. If left unaddressed, it can lead to dental problems, headaches, and an array of other issues. To learn more, speak with your dentist.