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Do you wake up with headaches and tired facial muscles or have a sore jaw throughout the day? You might be unknowingly grinding and/or clenching your teeth at night which is known as Bruxism. It is a common condition that affects around 30-40 million children and adults in the U.S.
Grinding and clenching your teeth at night (or during the day) can cause long-term dental issues such as cracked or fractured teeth, severe wear or worn-down enamel over time, or loosening previous dental work. Teeth grinding can also increase the risk of problems with the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull, known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ problems can induce difficulty chewing, chronic jaw pain, popping or clicking noises, locking of the jaw, and other complications.
Bruxism should not be ignored. Here are some tips to help protect your teeth from the affects of grinding & clenching.
Easier said than done, right?! Especially in these stressful times we are all in! However, stress is one of the leading causes of teeth clenching and teeth grinding. And since the beginning of 2020 we have seen more cracked teeth than the entire previous year! One way to help relax your jaw muscles before sleep is to practice positive thinking and actively letting go of negative and anxious thoughts from the day. Take 5 minutes before bed to address anxieties in your life by journaling your feelings and thoughts. This can help alleviate any negative thoughts that could be triggering teeth clenching at night. Practice mindful awareness by being conscious of any tension in your jaw as you drift off into sleep. Actively loosen and relax all of the muscles in your jaw and face. Try massaging/rubbing the muscles on the side of the jaw and the side of the head near the temples can help to relieve tension and reduce bruxism. If you are keeping your partner awake with sounds of teeth grinding at night, ask them to nudge you next time they notice you grinding. Before you go back to sleep, repeat the mindful awareness exercise.
Another option is to consider getting a mouth guard (bite splint). A mouth guard can be worn while sleeping to help prevent damage to your teeth, however, it will not eliminate bruxism. If you do clench or grind, you are wearing against the guard. It will be taking the brunt of the forces, instead of your teeth. You can get a mouth guard over the counter or one that is custom-made from our office. Custom mouth guards are typically better for severe grinders since they are personalized based on exact needs.
For some people grinding can be caused by an issue with teeth alignment. Braces, clear aligners, or other orthodontics might be recommended to help correct your bite and alignment. If bruxism has worn down your teeth enough to cause a problem chewing you may need reconstructive treatments, such as crowns or overlays, to correct teeth alignment.
Consuming substances with stimulants such as caffeine, coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate, can affect your quality of sleep and therefore make you more likely to clench while sleeping. Avoiding stimulates before bed to calm your body and mind and keep clenching at bay. Alcohol can also have a negative impact on your sleep quality, so it is best to avoid nightcaps if you experience nighttime teeth clenching
If you or your child is experiencing tooth pain, facial discomfort, or headaches, request an appointment with our team at Lakefront Family Dentistry soon and we’ll help determine the best care plan for you!
Happy Smiles, Happy Life!