Bruxism. That’s the technical term for grinding your teeth. Most teeth grinding happens at night, and you may not even be aware of it. Your spouse may notice (and complain about) the noise, or other common symptoms might indicate you have a teeth-grinding problem. Systems of nighttime clenching and grinding can include headaches, jaw soreness, earache, or teeth that are fractured, chipped, or loose. The constant muscular strain of grinding can cause all kinds of damage, including wear and tear on your teeth and jaw muscles. Severe bruxism can actually change the way you bite! You might unconsciously alter the way you bite and chew in order to use the undamaged parts of your teeth.
Teeth grinding can be conscious or unconscious, and it can occur during the day as well as at night. Though it can be caused by misaligned teeth, the most common cause of bruxism is stress. Anger can also cause grinding and clenching, especially during the day. If your boss is a jerk, he may be ruining your teeth and jaw as well as your day!
It’s best to schedule an appointment with us if you suspect you might suffer from bruxism. We’ll be able to tell from the wear and tear on your teeth if you have a problem with grinding. It’s possible you’ll need to be fitted with a mouthguard, splint, or other dental device that can help protect your teeth and jaws from the effects of teeth-grinding. Over-the-counter mouthguards aren’t nearly as effective because they aren’t molded for your individual bite, and they can become dislodged when you grind your teeth at night.
There are some things you can do to help stop yourself from grinding your teeth. The most important tip is to eliminate stress as much as possible. That’s important not only for your dental health, but for your overall well being!
Cut back on food and drinks that contain caffeine, such as soda (which is very naughty for your teeth anyway!), coffee, tea, and chocolate. Avoid alcohol, especially right before bed. Alcohol has been known to intensify teeth-grinding, and can also cause sleep disruption in general.
You can try to relax your jaw by putting a warm washcloth against your cheek. If you catch yourself clenching or grinding during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your front teeth. That will force your jaws to relax and can help you break the habit of clenching your jaw muscles.
You also want to avoid chewing on anything that is not food! This includes pens, pencils, or anything else you tend to gnaw on out of habit. You also may want to cut back on – or eliminate – gum chewing. Chewing gum can make your jaws used to the grinding and clenching motion.
As always, at Anderson Strickland Dental, we are here to help! If you suffer from teeth or jaw pain, or just need to schedule a cleaning, give us a call today at 225-665-1212. We look forward to hearing from you!