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4 Causes of Teeth Grinding and How to Avoid the Nightly Grind

by Williams, Daily & Frazier on Feb 21, 2017 4:26:53 AM

When you grind your teeth, you experience jaw tension and pain, and can even damage your teeth if you let it go on long enough. There are many causes of bruxism or teeth grinding. Let’s examine common reasons and ways to stop grinding your teeth to preserve your oral health.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

30 to 40 million U.S. adults and children grind their teeth. Common causes of teeth grinding include:

  • Stress and anxiety - Stress and anxiety negatively impact your sleep and cause teeth grinding. If stress or anxiety play a role in your teeth grinding, your symptoms may come and go with your mood.
  • Sleep apnea - Sleep apnea interrupts your breathing by blocking your airway. The action of grinding your teeth reopens the airway, so teeth grinding is common among sleep apnea sufferers.
  • Medication - Research suggests that some medications, including antidepressants, may cause teeth grinding. Recreational drugs can also cause teeth grinding.
  • Poor bite - If your upper and lower teeth do not align, your body could grind your teeth as a means to correct your bite. A poor bite is a common cause of bruxism in children, in particular.

Many people grind their teeth while they are asleep, and they may be unaware they are doing so unless they wake themselves up or are told about their actions by a loved one. If your jaw is tense or sore, you could be grinding your teeth. Other signs that suggest teeth grinding include jaw sensitivity, jaw swelling, frequent headaches, and face pain.

In the long term, teeth grinding can shorten your teeth by wearing down the enamel. Grinding can loosen your teeth or cause a tooth to fracture or fall out. If you experience teeth damage related to bruxism, you may need dentures, implants, root canals, or other dentistry treatments to protect your oral health.

How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth

Traditionally, a mouth guard work during sleep helps prevent teeth grinding. The mouth guard holds your jaw in a certain position, reducing the likelihood of grinding your teeth. Even if you do move your jaw back and forth, the mouth guard protects your tooth enamel from wear.

For individuals with stress and anxiety, stress management techniques can reduce the frequency of bruxism. Treatments that are effective include cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation, or getting more exercise.

If you have an underlying condition such as sleep apnea, treating the condition with medical care can reduce your bruxism. If you smoke, consume alcohol, or use recreational drugs, cutting back or quitting can decrease your teeth grinding.

Lifestyle changes further reduce the frequency of grinding your teeth. For instance, if you chew gum, this can train your jaw muscles to clench. As a result, you may be more likely to grind your teeth. By avoiding gum and only chewing food, you can reduce bruxism. When you are aware of your jaw tension and teeth grinding, you can take the first steps toward managing your bruxism.

By encouraging your jaw to relax, you can decrease pain and soreness associated with teeth grinding. Some patients find relief by self-massage or covering the jaw muscles with a washcloth soaked in warm water.

When to See a Dentist

If you think you might be grinding your teeth, see your dentist. A dentist will discuss your symptoms with you and examine your teeth and jaw. During a bruxism exam, dentists usually look for tension in the jaw, tooth damage, and bite alignment. Your dentist can fit you for a mouth guard to protect your teeth, or prescribe medication for short-term pain relief.

At Williams & Daily Dental, we treat bruxism in adults and children. Let us help you take care of your teeth by fitting you for a mouth guard, recommending stress management techniques, and more.

Williams, Daily & Frazier Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist in Raleigh, NC with a dedicated team of dentists, assistants, hygienists and administrators who are enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams, Daily & Frazier at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.