Do you often wake up in the morning with soreness or pain in your jaw, neck or face? Or, do you notice other symptoms like tooth pain or sensitivity?
You may be grinding your teeth and have no idea that you are even doing it. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding can be stress-related, but if you have misaligned or missing teeth, that can also be culprit of this bad habit, too.
There are two types of bruxism.
Awake – Teeth grinding during the day may be a natural reaction or coping strategy to deal with anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension.
Sleep – Chronic teeth grinding most often happens when you’re sleeping, making it difficult to even know you’re doing it or to control it.
If you have any of the following signs or symtoms, you’re likely suffering from bruxism and should see your dentist for a full examination and diagnosis.
>> Grinding or clenching that is so loud it wakes up your sleep partner
>> Flattened, fractured, chipped or loose teeth
>> Worn-down tooth enamel
>> Tooth pain or sensitivity
>> Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness
>> Pain similar to an earache
>> Dull headache starting in the temples
>> Inside cheek damage
>> Sleep disruption
If you suspect you have a problem with teeth grinding, there are some things that you can do on your own to help control it.
Watch the caffeine. Caffiene is one of the main culprits that contributes to insomnia and restless sleep. When you can’t get into a deep sleep, that’s often when bruxism occurs. Limit your caffeine intake to the morning or no later than early afternoon and you should hopefully see better, more restful sleep which will reduce teeth grinding.
Limit alcohol. For many people, alcohol acts as a sedative, but it can also have the opposite affect (much like caffeine). When you drink less alcohol, you’ll have a much deeper, restful night’s sleep.
Kick harmful habits to the curb. If you chew on pens or pencils, bite your fingernails or have similar behaviors, you’re actually training yourself for teeth grinding. Recognize these habits and find other more healthy stress-relieving alternatives to replace them.
Reduce stress. Set aside time each day to indulge in stress-reducing activities. Going out for a night with friends, listening to your favorite music, hitting gym on a regular basis or trying out a yoga class will make you feel more relaxed – day or night.
Get your brain ready for sleep. If you like to watch TV or read before bed, steer clear of books or shows with violent themes that stimulate the brain and keep it from resting. And if you love a good workout, make sure you get it in earlier in the day because rigorous exercise gives your metabolism a boost that can keep you awake at night, too.
If you’ve taken these steps on your own and nothing seems to be helping with your teeth grinding habit, call your dentist.
At Bedminster Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we’ve helped many patients with a simple mouth guard that protects the teeth and other dental work from the damages of teeth grinding. If your case of bruxism is severe, it may warrant the need for prescription muscle relaxers. However, most of the time, we’ve seen that teeth grinding can be greatly reduced when the social and behavioral issues are addressed.
Still concerned? Call us for a consultation and we’ll be happy to evaluate your situation.
Dr. Mike Mavrostomos is passionate about providing top-quality, comprehensive dental care. He is located in Bedminster, NJ whose continual pursuit of education and state-of-the-art dentistry has led to his being recognized as one of New Jersey’s Top Dentists by the New Jersey Top-Docs committee.