Everyone learns how to handle stress in their own way. If you tense your jaw muscles in response to stress or anxiety, that’s known as bruxism, a condition where a person grinds or clenches teeth unconsciously. Sleep bruxism is the most common version, but some may also clench during the day.
How do I know if I have bruxism?Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. If you are grinding your teeth, you may experience symptoms of a dull, constant headache, sore jaw, tooth sensitivity, inflammation of the gums, flattened or chipped teeth, and/or cuts inside the mouth from biting. Bruxism can also cause damage to your teeth, restorations, crowns, or jaw which can lead to a TMJ disorder.
When should I see a dentist?
If you suspect you have been grinding your teeth, schedule a visit with us. We will be able to examine your mouth and look for signs of bruxism, like jaw tenderness or worn-down teeth. It is time to see a doctor if:
- You have locked jaw or are uncomfortable chewing
- You have pain in your jaw, face or ear
- Your teeth are damaged, worn or sensitive
It’s important to see a dentist if you are suffering from these symptoms so we may diagnose any dental disorders, ear disorders or infection, TMJ, TMD, or a medication side-effect.
How do I stop grinding my teeth?
If you are grinding your teeth, it’s important to take measures on your own to help yourself get out of the habit.
- Reduce your stress. We know this easier said than done. But stress is one of the major causes of teeth grinding. Try fitting things into your life that will relax you—a great workout, some yoga, or a bike ride. Take time to see your friends and family, and set aside time just for you every single day.
- Make sure you’ll feel great. Eating a well-balanced diet can also help you have more energy, resulting in less stress. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule where you go to bed at the same time every night will prevent you from feeling over-tired, therefore lowering your stress level.
- Eliminate caffeine. We all love our coffee and soft drinks, but the caffeine is a stimulant which will make it challenging for you to relax your mind, and in turn, the muscles of your jaw. If you need coffee, try decaf.
- Remove alcohol from your diet. Because alcoholic beverages are a depressant, they can hinder healthy sleep patterns. Studies show that grinding behavior actually gets worse with alcohol consumption.
- Be careful about what you chew on a regular basis. Chewing on pens, pencils, or ice can actually hurt your jaw event more.
- Train yourself. Practice relaxing your jaw during the day by either lightly tapping your front teeth or placing the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Try to stay aware during your day of if you are clenching, and as your jaw begins to tense, do these things to prevent it from getting worse.
- Take in more calcium and magnesium. Both of these supplements are necessary for muscle function and nervous system health. If you don’t have enough, problems with clenching, tension and other muscle problems can occur. Do this on an ongoing basis, as this will not produce an instant result.
- Take time to relax yourself before bed. Everyone has different ways of relaxing, so find something that works for you. For some, relaxing music, a hot shower, and reading in bed is a relaxing low-stress nightly routine. Turn off the television, computer, and any bright lights at least an hour before bed. Massage your jaw muscles before you fall asleep so they remain relaxed for the night.
We can help.
If taking these measures don’t work, we can help! Chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Grinding of teeth consistently could lead to the need for bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or dentures, so if you believe you have bruxism, please contact us for an evaluation today. Depending on how severe your bruxism is, we may need to prescribe muscle relaxants which help to loosen the jaw and prevent teeth grinding.
Having crowns or onlays put onto your teeth can help reshape the surface of your teeth to repair your bite, which will help to prevent teeth grinding. We may also recommend different types of mouth guards or splints based on your needs.
- Mouth guards can be custom-fit or purchased over the counter, and could help if the patient wears them at night.
- Self-adjustable mouth guards are also an affordable alternative, which can easily be molded in hot water and adjusted to your bite.
- Dental splints are harder and will fit over either your upper or lower teeth. Wearing these at night can help protect your teeth from the damage of bruxism.
In some cases bruxism can affect how your teeth look. If your teeth have been shortened or made uneven by teeth-grinding, we can restore your look with natural looking crowns or veneers. To learn more about our cosmetic dentistry options, visit http://myfortmyersdentist.com/cosmeticdentistry/ or call us at 239-936-0597.