If you’re grinding your teeth at night, how do you know it’s happening? And what can you do to solve the problem? Family members are often the first to become aware of teeth grinding, so listen to your loved ones if they share a concern. Awareness of warning signs and oral health impacts can also help you catch problems early. Seeing your family dentist regularly can help you recognize and resolve teeth grinding and avoid negative health consequences.
How Does Grinding Impact My Oral Health?
Bruxism is the formal name for grinding or clenching your teeth. According to a 2022 study from Texas A&M University, nighttime teeth grinders can clench down with up to 250 pounds of force. That’s a lot of pressure on the teeth and jaw. It can have a host of negative consequences for your oral and overall health, including:
- Fractured, chipped, or loose teeth
- Worn enamel
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Jaw pain, tension, or tightness
- Bruxism is also linked to other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.
How Can I Tell If I’m Grinding My Teeth At Night?
Your spouse, family members, or others in your household may be the first to notice nighttime teeth grinding. If a loved one mentions a concern, it’s an excellent reminder to see your family dentist. Your dentist may also recognize telltale signs, including:
- Sore jaw
- Pain near the ears that feels like an earache but is actually related to the jaw
- Pain or sores on the cheeks from friction
- Wear and tear on teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Jaw disorders, including TMJ
How Can I Protect My Teeth from Grinding?
- A custom mouthguard is the most effective way to keep teeth grinding from hurting your teeth and jaw. A night guard can prevent wear and tear on your teeth and stress on your jaw. The best option is a custom mouthguard designed by your dentist to fit your mouth perfectly. Your dentist makes an impression of your teeth, creates a mold, and orders a custom device made of soft plastic or hard acrylic. Once the nightguard is complete, you’ll visit your dentist’s office for a fitting. Insurance may pay for all or a portion of your nightguard.
- Stress reduction is another important way to prevent teeth grinding at night. Using relaxation techniques can help. According to the Sleep Foundation, breathing techniques, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and biofeedback can help. Biofeedback involves working with a doctor or sleep specialist to use technology to monitor and adjust brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature.
- Keep up with routine dental checkups so your dentist can check for signs of bruxism, including wear and tear on the teeth, chipping, or breaking.
- Certain medications can also cause teeth grinding, so let your dentist know when you start a new prescription.
Other practices to reduce teeth grinding include:
- Avoid excessive gum chewing
- Focus on relaxing your jaw during the day. If you clench your jaw, make a mental note to relax.
- Drink plenty of water
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid or quit tobacco use. NIH studies show smokers are more likely to grind their teeth than nonsmokers.
Think You’re Grinding Your Teeth? See Your Family Dentist
If you think you’re grinding your teeth at night, an appointment with your family dentist is an excellent first step. At Greenhill Family Dental Care, our doctors have extensive experience identifying and treating bruxism. We’ll look for common warning signs and help you protect your teeth and get better sleep, starting with a custom mouthguard. And remember, scheduling those routine six-month checkups is one of the best ways to catch grinding early and prevent damage.