young girl grinding her teeth in her sleep

Teeth Grinding: Causes and Treatments

Do you often wake up with a headache? What about a sore jaw? If so, you might be unintentionally grinding or clenching your teeth at night. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding and jaw clenching are prevalent conditions that affect one-third of the adult population. Why you grind your teeth isn’t always a simple known answer. It can occur for several reasons and without you even being aware you’re doing it.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

The cause of bruxism varies and is unique to each individual. Some consider teeth grinding a habit, while others attribute it to physical, psychological, or genetic factors. Teeth grinding is more common in children, with three out of 10 kids affected before the age of 5. However, unlike adults, most children tend to outgrow the condition after losing their baby teeth and before adolescence. The grinding is usually a result of misaligned teeth.

For adults, though, some of the more common causes of teeth grinding include:

  • Stress, anxiety, tension
  • Malocclusion, or when the teeth and jaw do not line up correctly
  • Side effect of medications, such as antidepressants
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine use
  • Sleep apnea
  • Acid reflux

How Bruxism is Diagnosed

As previously mentioned, most people who grind their teeth don’t even realize or know they are doing it. Consequently, it can make it difficult to diagnose until there are visible signs and symptoms. Grinding your teeth can cause uncomfortable side effects as well as damage to your teeth. If you suffer from bruxism, your dentist should be able to diagnose it during a routine exam easily. The constant grinding can wear down the enamel on your teeth, and your gums to become irritated. Other signs and symptoms that help to diagnose bruxism include:

  • Contractions of the jaw
  • Headache
  • Swelling on the side of your lower jaw
  • Popping or clicking of the temporomandibular joint
  • Broken dental fillings
  • Bleeding and receding gums
nightguard to treat teeth grinding or bruxism

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

It’s important to get to the root cause of why you grind your teeth in order to apply proper treatment. For example, to prevent the teeth from scraping against each other, your dentist might prescribe a nightguard to be worn. A professionally made night guard fits perfectly in your mouth and over your teeth to prevent your teeth from being damaged. However, wearing a nightguard will not stop you from grinding your teeth. It will only help to prevent further damage. You can find premade nightguards in your local store. They don’t fit your teeth perfectly, but they still offer protection.

Depending on the cause of your grinding, other treatments may include:

Medication –  Prescribed medication can help to relax your jaw. If your grinding is related to stress, anxiety, or depression, antidepressants might be used to control stressors.

Botox – You can also use Botox injections to paralyze the jaw muscles responsible for teeth grinding. With Botox, injections are made into the jaw muscles that help you chew. It may also be injected into the frontalis and temporalis muscles according to your specific needs. The botulinum toxin will help to relax the muscles, thus reducing clenching. It doesn’t completely paralyze your face or muscles, so you will still be able to express yourself, chew, and talk like normal. Botox is not a permanent solution. Results typically appear one to three days post-injection and last three to six months.

Mouth Exercises – Stretching exercises for your mouth can also be performed to help ease the jaw muscle and reduce clenching. For example, stretching your jaw open and close whenever you feel tension or stress helps to normalize the jaw muscles and joints, and other muscles along the side of the head.    

Massage – When bruxism results from chronic stress and tension, massage therapy may prove beneficial. Massages can help relax not only the jaw but also the neck and shoulders. In addition, by eliminating knots in your muscles, your body will be more relaxed and less likely to clench.

Schedule Your Appointment with VIPcare Dental

Don’t let teeth grinding stand in your way of getting a good night’s rest or from having a beautiful healthy smile. If you think you’re grinding your teeth or are experiencing symptoms of bruxism, schedule an appointment with your dentist today! Together, you can discuss the best treatment options for you. Receive the care you deserve and the proper treatment to eliminate bruxism and its effects.

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