Have you noticed that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth lately? Everyone grinds or clenches their teeth from time to time. It’s a common physical response to stress or injury. But when teeth grinding or clenching happens on a regular basis, it may be bruxism.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition in which you regularly grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. When left untreated, bruxism can lead to tooth damage and other oral health complications.
Causes of bruxism
There are many things that may cause bruxism. It may be the way your body responds to stress or an injury. Experts believe bruxism is caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors.
Types of bruxism
There are two types of bruxism. They are awake and sleep bruxism.
Awake Bruxism, bruxism that happens while you’re awake, might be triggered by anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, or tension. It may also be a coping strategy or a habit caused by deep concentration.
Sleep Bruxism, bruxism that occurs at night, might be caused by similar triggers as awake bruxism. It may also be an unconscious habit your body has while you sleep.
Common symptoms of bruxism
How do you know if your teeth grinding is temporary or if you have full on bruxism? If you have bruxism, you may experience some of these symptoms:
- Tired or tight jaw muscles
- Sore jaw, neck or face
- Jaw pain that feels kind of like an earache
- Dull headache that starts at the temples
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
- Sores on the insides of your cheek
- Unable to get a good night’s sleep
- Teeth grinding or clenching that’s loud enough to wake up your sleep partner
This is just a list of the most common symptoms you may experience if you have bruxism. Talk to your dentist if you’re experiencing any of the above. They’ll help determine if you have bruxism or something else.
What is the treatment for bruxism?
In mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. Children can grow out of it and many adults don’t grind their teeth enough to require therapy.
However, if the problem is frequent and severe, talk to your dentist. There are many treatment options you can explore to get some relief.
Depending on your case, your dentist may recommend a night guard to keep your teeth separated while you sleep and avoid damage caused by teeth grinding and clenching.
What happens when bruxism isn’t treated?
If left untreated, bruxism can damage your teeth. It can lead to worn tooth enamel which increases your risk for decay. Long-term bruxism can also erode the chewing surfaces of your teeth, causing them to become dull. In severe cases, bruxism may lead to fractured or chipped teeth and even permanent tooth loss.
Additionally, experts believe bruxism may be a contributing factor of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD). The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of your ears. This joint helps your jaw move up and down, and side to side, so you can talk, chew, and yawn.
Long-term grinding and clenching of your teeth can lead to problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Talk to your dentist if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms because they may indicate you have TMD:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint, neck, shoulders, or around your ear
- Problems opening your mouth wide
- Jaws locking in open or shut positions
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw
- A tired feeling in your face
- Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite
- Swelling on the side of your face
Most of our dental plans cover treatment for TMD. Create or sign in to your MySmile® account to review your coverage.
If you experience any of the symptoms for TMD or bruxism, check in with your dentist to identify the best options for care.