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Grinding Teeth? Here’s What You Should Know

If you grind your teeth, you might not even know it. That’s because teeth grinding usually happens at night, while you sleep. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism and while it may seem innocuous, it’s actually a serious problem that should be corrected. 

How do you know if you’re grinding your teeth at night? What can be done to stop it? Here’s what you should know.

Signs of Teeth Grinding

Because teeth grinding occurs when you’re asleep, it’s not always easy to diagnose. You may catch yourself clenching your jaw absentmindedly throughout the day if you pay attention, but the teeth grinding only occurs when you’re sleeping. If you find that you’re experiencing a few of these symptoms and there is no other explanation for them, it’s a strong possibility that you’re grinding your teeth at night:

  • Headaches, particularly ones that feel like they are located in or radiating out from your temples or jaw.
  • Dental problems like chipped or cracked teeth and sensitivity. One of the most common signs of bruxism is teeth that are uniformly flat and small from wear.
  • Facial pain and muscle tightness in the jaw, shoulders, and neck.
  • Earaches, a common issue because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located near the ear canal.

It should also be noted that teeth grinding and TMJ disorder (TMD) are closely related. Chronic teeth grinding almost always leads to eventual TMD, although not all TMD is caused by teeth grinding.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

Stress is the most common cause of bruxism. If you suffer from anxiety or even if you’re simply going through a stressful time in life, you’re more likely to grind your teeth at night. There are also other medical causes for teeth grinding, including:

  • Gastric reflux
  • Genetics
  • Orthodontic problems like misaligned teeth or malocclusion
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • ADHD
  • Certain medications
  • Sleep Apnea

How to Stop Teeth Grinding

Because TMD and bruxism are related, the first line of treatment is usually a night guard, also known as a stabilization splint or bruxism appliance. While you can purchase over-the-counter mouth guards that claim to relieve TMJ pain and teeth grinding, the custom-made night guards available at our office are a superior option, made with stronger material that is more comfortable to wear through the night. The purpose of these appliances is to physically separate your teeth so you’re unable to grind them. This relaxes the jaw, easing muscle tension and TMD symptoms. Botox for TMD is another treatment option that has proven effective in many patients.

In addition to night guards and Botox, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to help you stop grinding your teeth:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety, a common underlying cause of teeth grinding. Practice progressive muscle relaxation before bedtime or incorporate meditation into your day.
  • Cut down on caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can worsen the nervous tension that causes bruxism.
  • Use warm compresses on your temples or take a hot bath before bedtime to help relax your muscles.
  • Make it a habit to massage your temples and jaw before you go to sleep at night.
  • Don’t chew gum, candy, or other foods that make your jaw feel sore. Excessive chewing can make muscle tension in the jaw much worse.
  • Take the Epworth Sleep Scale test to rule out if you might have an issue with sleep apnea and search out getting a sleep test. Call us for help if you think you might have apnea.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth at night, contact us at 925-735-1515 to make an appointment at our San Ramon, CA orthodontic practice.