The Dangers of Teeth Grinding

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Teeth Grinding Can Cause Major Damage

Teeth grinding is one of the worst habits for your teeth. Commonly referred to as bruxism, grinding, clenching, or gnashing puts unnecessary and potentially destructive pressure on your teeth. It is an easy way to damage your teeth or cause other oral issues. If you wake up with sensitive teeth, a sore jaw, or even a headache, you might be dealing with bruxism.

You might even notice throughout the day that you are clenching your jaw. When you clench your jaw, your teeth naturally grind against one another. Whether awake or asleep, you might not even realize that you are grinding your teeth. However, the results of teeth grinding are often very severe.

While many cases of bruxism are mild and require no treatment, others can lead to a host of symptoms and issues, from jaw pain to cracked teeth. If you don’t catch and treat bruxism right away, it can lead to painful outcomes.

Sleep bruxism occurs in up to 50% of children, but its prevalence decreases as children grow older, with only around 5-8% of adults experiencing sleep bruxism. Awake bruxism affects nearly one-third of people. However, experts estimate that roughly 85-90% of the general population grinds their teeth to some degree in their life.

As you can see, teeth grinding is far more common than many realize, and it can affect your teeth in various ways. If you notice yourself clenching your jaw or wake up with sensitive teeth or jaw pain, you might be suffering from bruxism. If so, contact Cosmetic & Family Dentistry of Las Colinas and let us help.

Awake Bruxism vs. Sleep Bruxism

Before we dive deeper, let’s explain the main differences between grinding your teeth at night versus during the day. While some differences are obvious, it’s essential to take a closer look at the two.

  • Awake Bruxism: Occurs during the day. Clenching is much more prominent than teeth grinding. Typically, you are aware that you are clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. It is often semi-voluntary. Awake bruxism usually correlates with high anxiety and stress. Females experience it more than males. These symptoms typically worsen as the day progresses. It also increases your chance of teeth grinding at night.
  • Sleep Bruxism: Occurs at night when you are asleep. Teeth grinding is more prominent than jaw clenching. Experts defined it as a sleep-related movement, and it is involuntary. The majority of those with sleep bruxism are unaware that they do it. Both men and women experience it equally. The symptoms of sleep bruxism are always worse in the morning, right when you wake up.

As you can see, there are subtle differences between the two, but it’s vital to know them.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

If you suspect that you might be experiencing bruxism, you should keep an eye out for any of these teeth grinding symptoms:

  • Flattened teeth
  • Fractured, chipped, cracked, or broken teeth
  • Tooth pain
  • Bleeding gums or gum recession
  • Increased teeth sensitivity
  • Sore or tight jaw muscles
  • Locked jaw (your jaw won’t open or close completely)
  • Muscles tightness in jaw, neck, or face
  • Pain that feels like it’s in your ear (even though it is not)
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Teeth grinding or clenching (might be loud enough to be heard by your sleep partner)

If you experience any of these symptoms, or your sleep partner hears you grinding your teeth at night, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is the best way to prevent any long-term damage.

Causes of Teeth Grinding 

As we mentioned earlier, awake bruxism and sleep bruxism have some key differences. Naturally, the causes of each differ slightly. They do share some similar causes. High levels of anxiety, stress, and tension can cause teeth grinding when you are awake and asleep.

Some teeth grinding causes when awake:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • A habit of deep concentration
  • Anger or frustration
  • A coping technique in stressful situations
  • Misaligned bites (missing or crooked teeth, over- or underbites)
  • Excess caffeine (soda, coffee, energy drinks, etc.)

Increases in brain and cardiovascular activity tend to precede teeth grinding in most cases of sleep bruxism. Some other teeth grinding causes when asleep:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Misaligned bites
  • Side effects of certain medications (antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc.)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Changing in sleep patterns or microarousals during sleep
  • Cigarette use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Caffeine intake
  • Snoring

In many instances, if someone in your family experiences bruxism, you have a higher risk of experiencing it, too. Nearly half of people with sleep bruxism also have a close family member who has it.

An overnight sleep study (known as polysomnography) is the best way to diagnose sleep bruxism. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming. In most cases, the presence of jaw pain, teeth sensitivity, and tooth damage are enough to determine if you have bruxism or not.

Impacts of Teeth Grinding

As we briefly mentioned throughout, there are plenty of reasons why grinding your teeth is so harmful. It can lead to lasting impacts that threaten your overall oral health. Bruxism (whether awake or asleep) can cause chronic pain. Additionally, it can lead to cracked, fractured, or broken teeth, which often causes you to need bridges, crowns, implants, or even a root canal.

Bruxism can also lead to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ syndrome). When these occur, you’ll experience muscle problems in the jaw and joints, which can cause clicking sounds and restrict your range of motion, preventing you from properly chewing or opening your mouth.

All of these things can cause tooth loss and even affect the appearance of your face. You’ll need extensive cosmetic dentistry to make up for the damage of grinding your teeth, which is why early diagnosis is so vital.

What You Can Do to Stop Grinding 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can stop teeth grinding. Since stress is one of the most prominent causes, reducing your stress is vital in preventing grinding. You can do so through yoga, controlled breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, and more. Therapy can also help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and even help with sleep.

Some medications can also reduce muscle activity and muscle tension, which relaxes the muscles, keeping them from clenching. If you grind your teeth in your sleep, your dentist may fit you with a mouthguard (also called a nightguard) to reduce the damage done to your teeth.

Additionally, visiting your dentist is one of the best ways to receive an early diagnosis and to create an effective treatment plan for your unique case. If you wake up to jaw pain or teeth sensitivity, give Cosmetic & Family Dentistry of Las Colinas a call today and let us help you with your teeth grinding.