2022 Goals: Stop Teeth Grinding!
Maybe you’ve found yourself a little more stressed than usual lately—but you want to do everything you can to relax, find peace, and step into the new year with hope. One common stress response is to display the stress physically, by tightening up in your joints. If you find yourself stressed, it’s a good idea to check in with your body to see where you are holding tension. And, as we treat patients for a painful jaw condition called TMJ, we’d recommend you pay close attention to your jaw in particular. Clenching your jaw and teeth grinding are both stress responses that can contribute to TMJ. Ending teeth grinding would be a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing this year.
Signs of Teeth Grinding
You may be clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth during the day. If you find yourself doing this, take note, and see if it has become a bad habit. It’s a common bad habit—so common that it even has its own name: bruxism. Even though it’s common, you’ll find out more in a bit about why teeth grinding is more serious than you might think.
If you don’t grind your teeth during waking hours, it’s worth trying to understand if you are teeth grinding at night. A few signs might point to the fact that you grind your teeth at night:
• Waking up with a headache, shoulder, or neck pain
• Jaw pain
• Tooth sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods
• Cracked or worn teeth, especially on the front and back teeth
• Abfractions, or defects, along the gum line
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), teeth grinding when awake is often triggered by stress. Teeth grinding when asleep is often the result of breathing difficulties when you sleep, like those triggered by a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. JADA also reports that medications, caffeinated beverages, and tobacco may put people at risk for teeth grinding.
Teeth Grinding Effects
The bad news—and a good reason to make it a goal to quit—is that teeth grinding over time is very bad for your teeth. JADA reports that people with bruxism “clench or bite down with a force six times greater than normal forces.” All of that pressure can lead to cracks in the teeth. It can also damage the tissues holding the teeth in place, so teeth become loose.
It can also lead to a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, (TMD, commonly also referred to as TMJ). TMJ is a painful condition where your jaw doesn’t operate correctly at the joint. Patients with TMJ often experience clicking or popping sounds in the jaw, tired jaws, and pain when chewing. It can also cause earaches or congestion and ringing in the ears, neck pain, and headaches. It can even cause your jaw to lock in an open or closed position, which is incredibly painful.
So you can see, this bad habit is one worth taking a closer look at! Ending teeth grinding can do far more for your overall health than you might have expected.
Teeth Grinding Treatment
The good news is that you can train yourself out of the habit of teeth grinding—and you don’t have to do it on your own. If you grind your teeth at night, you can seek treatment. A dentist trained in TMJ and sleep disorders can evaluate your situation, assess any damage, and make recommendations for treatment.
The dentist will be able to examine your teeth and gums and understand your symptoms. The dentist can also evaluate your situation to see if it has progressed beyond teeth grinding and diagnose TMJ or a sleep disorder, as the case may be. Without the presence of any other disorders, teeth grinding may be resolved with a simple oral appliance—a device you can wear at night, similar to a retainer, that will prevent you from grinding your teeth. And if TMJ is developing, it’s best to catch it early and begin treatment as soon as possible, as it is a medical condition that progresses and gets worse over time.
Do you want to take the first step to stop teeth grinding? Make an appointment to visit our London, Ontario clinic today.