Have your jaw muscles ever felt tight or tired after a night of disrupted sleep? If the answer is yes, you might be grinding your teeth at night—a condition known as bruxism. Most people don’t realize that they’re doing this until it starts to cause discomfort and even tooth damage, so it’s important to catch the problem early.
So, how do you know if you grind your teeth at night? The oral health experts at Muscaro and Martini Dentistry discuss the most common signs of bruxism, as well as possible causes and treatment options.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition where you unconsciously grind, gnash, or clench your jaw when you are awake or asleep.
Occasional bruxism may not require treatment. However, frequent teeth grinding can cause long-term difficulties, including severe headaches, jaw disorders, muscle pain, and damage to the teeth and supporting structures.
If you clench your jaw while you are asleep, you have sleep bruxism. People with sleep bruxism are more likely to suffer from other sleep disorders including snoring or sleep apnea. It is essential to know if you grind your teeth at night because it could lead to extreme pain or other physical disorders over time.
Causes of Bruxism
Bruxism causes vary and could be due to physical, psychological, physical, genetic, or behavioral factors. Any of these factors could be causing you to unknowingly grind your teeth.
With so many possible factors at play, how do you know if you grind your teeth? The following may put you at higher risk:
1. Psychological/Emotional Response
Anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth. If you have a particular personality type for being aggressive, competitive, or hyperactive, that can increase your risk. Having a mental or medical health disorder, such as ADHD or night terrors, also puts you at risk for teeth grinding.
This condition is often a subconscious coping mechanism for these psychological or emotional issues. It can be a repeated habit that soothes you emotionally during deep concentration.
2. Hereditary and Health Risk Factors
Sleep bruxism can also occur in families. If your parents or family members suffer from bruxism, you may be at a higher risk.
3. Behavioral Factors
The chance of developing bruxism is heightened by smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages. One study found that people who drank more than eight cups of coffee per day, smoked tobacco, or drank alcohol were more likely to suffer from sleep bruxism. While these behavioral factors contribute to the likelihood of developing bruxism, they may also be aggravating an underlying condition that is the root cause.
How can you tell if you grind your teeth in your sleep?
Without a medical diagnosis, it can be hard to determine with confidence if you are grinding your teeth at night. Common symptoms include:
- Sound of teeth grinding back and forth, observed by sleeping partners
- Trouble sleeping through the night
- Noticing your teeth are still clenched in the morning, or waking up with a sore jaw
- Having tooth issues such as a worn tooth, chipped tooth, or flattened tooth
- Issues with lockjaw or soreness from opening and closing your jaw
- Facial soreness or pain
- Sore neck muscles
- Headaches, sore temples, and earaches
- Cut skin from the inside of your cheek from chewing it
If you are experiencing any of the signs listed above, there is a fair possibility that you have bruxism. This condition can have serious health risks in the future if left untreated, so it’s important to discuss the issue with a dentist who specializes in treating bruxism.
When should I see a dentist?
Bruxism does not always require treatment, but if you experience any of the symptoms above, it may be time to see a dentist to prevent any long-term damage to your teeth.
How Grinding Your Teeth Affects Your Oral Health
Bruxism is detrimental to your overall oral health. Unconsciously grinding your teeth can lead to issues with your tooth constitution, gum health, and chewing ability. Constant grinding can cause the shape of your teeth to be filed down due to pressure and friction, resulting in an uneven bite. This then can lead to cracked and damaged teeth, exposing the nerves and requiring immediate dental attention.
Pressure from tooth grinding can lead to teeth becoming loose, slowly detaching from the jaw, and potentially falling from the socket in the middle of the night. Grinding can also lead to gum recession from stress on the gum line and breaking down the soft tissue.
Dental Treatments for Bruxism
If you suspect you have bruxism, a dentist can help you confirm the diagnosis and determine whether or not treatment is necessary.
One of the most common dental treatments for bruxism is a mouthguard, also called a nightguard or a splint. Custom-molded and made from hard or soft materials, a mouthguard keeps your teeth separated at night and prevents damage from clenching and teeth grinding. However, patients should know that a mouthguard is not a treatment for bruxism—while it will help prevent damage, it won’t stop you from grinding your teeth.
Kids with bruxism will often grow out of it, so a mouthguard may be all that’s needed. However, if your bruxism is caused by another condition, such as anxiety or a sleep disorder, your dentist may also recommend seeing a therapist or a somnologist (sleep specialist).
Talk With a Dentist About Bruxism Treatments
Being informed is the first step. The next step is to resolve the issue with the help of a local dentist. Schedule an appointment with Muscaro and Martini Cosmetic Dentistry in Tampa, Florida. We can help identify the cause of your teeth grinding and create a custom treatment plan to address it.