Do you ever wake up with a headache or sore jaw muscles? Are your teeth chipped or worn out? You may be suffering from bruxism. Although this dental condition has nothing to do with cavities or tooth decay, it can still have a serious impact on your overall oral health. Here is what you need to know about bruxism, common symptoms, and how it is treated.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition in which you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. Bruxism can damage your teeth, cause problems with your jaw joints, and lead to other oral health complications. Grinding or clenching your teeth can happen when you’re awake or asleep. While the general action is the same, awake and sleep bruxism are two different conditions.
- Awake bruxism: With this condition, you grind your teeth and clench your jaws during the day. This is usually tied to emotional issues such as anxiety, stress, anger, tension, or frustration. It can also happen during deep concentration.
- Sleep bruxism: You grind your teeth during sleep. This tends to cause more harm since you’re unaware it’s happening and don’t realize how strong the grinding or clenching action is. You can use up to 250 pounds force, causing problems with your teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. People with sleep bruxism may have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (pauses in breathing) and snoring.
Signs You May Have Bruxism
You may suffer from sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until someone mentions it or until complications develop. Signs you may have bruxism include:
- Audible teeth grinding or clenching
- Consistently tired or tight jaw muscles
- Pain or soreness in the neck, jaw, or face
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Worn tooth enamel
- Flattened, chipped, fractured, or loose teeth
- Dull, achy pain around your ears
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Swelling in the lower jaw
- Pain when eating
- TMJ disorder, which sounds like popping or clicking in the jaw
- Damaged dental restorations
Talk to your dentist if you notice any of these signs and symptoms of bruxism. They can examine your teeth and jaw muscles, provide a diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan.
What Causes Bruxism?
While the exact cause of bruxism is not known, it is thought to stem from a combination of physical, genetic, and psychological factors. The most contributing factors include:
- Lifestyle habits, such as using cigarettes, drinking alcohol, consuming a lot of caffeine, using recreational drugs
- Prolonged periods of anxiety, stress, anger, or frustration
- Sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea
- Use of certain medications, such as antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- Medical conditions such as epilepsy, GERD, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and ADHD
If you suffer from sleep bruxism, your dentist will create a custom mouthguard that you can wear before bed. This will help reduce damage to your teeth, jaw joints, and muscles.
If your bruxism is caused by psychological issues, talk to your healthcare provider about options to reduce stress or anxiety. Avoiding or cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes can also help with bruxism.
Talk to Your Dentist
Grinding or clenching your teeth can cause significant damage since you may not realize you’re doing it. If you wake up with unexplained headaches, jaw soreness, earaches, or dental pain, see a dentist. They will discuss your symptoms, examine your mouth, and create the best treatment plan for your needs.