Jaw Pain & Teeth Grinding
At some point or another, most of us will clench or grind our teeth. When grinding happens once in a while, it is not as damaging to your mouth and teeth than if you do it all of the time. Chronic grinding or clenching, known as bruxism, can lead to jaw pain and many oral health complications.
Why do we grind?
Bruxism can be caused by some obvious factors, including anxiety and stress. As your mind mulls over the day’s events as you sleep, it is normal to set your jaw and clench out the worry. Otherwise, grinding is often caused by crooked teeth or an abnormal bite. As the teeth don’t reset well together, the jaw can automatically work the teeth together as you sleep. Certain sleep disorders can also cause clenching and grinding. In other cases, there might be no obvious explanation at all.
What harm does it do?
One of the biggest complications from grinding your teeth is jaw pain, also known as TMJ. When this joint and the surrounding muscles are overworked, you will have trouble chewing, talking, and it can even get to the point of locking. This is because the clenching motion has overworked your jaw.
In other cases, clenching and grinding your teeth can wear down the tops of your teeth. This can remove the protective enamel on your teeth, putting you at a bigger risk of tooth decay. With enough pressure, bruxism can also crack your teeth, which can mean even more dental trouble. Finally, all of the impact from grinding and clenching can cause your gums to recede, exposing the top part of the roots of your teeth, which will give you pain and sensitivity.
How do you know if you do it?
If you are not sure whether you are clenching and grinding your teeth while you are asleep, there are some ways that you can find out.
- Sore Jaw: If you are waking up in the morning with a sore jaw, it is a good indication that you are grinding in your sleep.
- Headaches: You might also get a dull, constant headache when you wake in the morning.
- Tooth Surfaces: If your teeth are feeling differently across the top or have become more sensitive.
- Someone Tells You: The most common way to find out whether you are grinding your teeth is when a loved one tells you. This is because it still makes a lot of noise, even if you are sleeping through it.
What to do?
If you suspect that you are grinding or clenching your teeth while you are asleep, then it is time to invest in a night guard. Most dental offices can help you have a guard custom made to fit your mouth perfectly. A mouth guard will separate the teeth, keeping them from touching one another, therefore preventing grinding.
You can also get a less expensive night guard from your local pharmacy, but they will never be as customized for your needs as the one you get from the dentist.