Teeth Grinding: Causes, Effects and What To Do

images of teethIf you regularly wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, headache, mouth or tooth pain, or tenseness in your mouth or jaw, you could be grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Dentists around the country have reported that between 30 and 50 percent of their patients have problems with unconscious (either while awake, or more likely, while sleeping) teeth grinding, a disorder called bruxism.

Teeth grinding can have several causes, but there are several things you can do to help. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teeth grinding is often a problem for “highly determined people,” or people who are experiencing a lot of pressure or stress. Sleep-related teeth grinding can also affect young children: it’s assumed that children who are teething may grind their teeth to help relieve pain.

Symptoms of bruxism may include wear on the tops, or chewing, surfaces of the teeth; cracked teeth or broken fillings; and wearing away or indentations in teeth. People with severe or prolonged bruxism often have headaches and pain in front of their ears, where the joint of the jaw is.

This damage to the teeth may seem severe, but one dental medicine professor explained that clenching your teeth results in about 300 pounds of force on your teeth: This is like a huge football linebacker standing on your tooth! It’s no wonder that clenching and grinding teeth can cause such damage.

Many dentists prescribe the use of a mouth guard – also called a night guard and occlusal guard – to help prevent teeth grinding or clenching while sleeping. This guard is used to maintain the space that should always be present between your teeth: teeth should only be touching when chewing, swallowing, or sometimes, talking.

Night guards are made in a dentist’s office and are especially made to fit snugly onto each person’s top teeth. They are made of hard acrylic, and many people who suffer from teeth grinding use them daily with great results.

Your dentist can help you determine if you suffer from teeth grinding or clenching by looking at your teeth at your next dental visit. Decreasing stress and minimizing how much caffeine you drink may also help.