Do You Grind Your Teeth At Night?

Submitted by Bonnie C. Ferrell, DDS on September 1, 2017

Do you wake up with pain in your face, neck, or jaw? Do you often feel as though you have an earache, though nothing seems to be wrong with your ears? Do you have regular dull headaches beginning at the temples? Have you noticed that the muscles in your jaw feel tight or tired regularly? If you can identify with any of these statements, it’s possible that bruxism—or tooth- grinding—may be the culprit.

Bruxism is surprisingly common, affecting approximately 10% of American adults (and 15% of American children), or roughly 30 million people, according to the American Sleep Association. It can be triggered by a number of different factors, including the use of certain medications, stress or anxiety, sleep disorders, alcohol or tobacco use, medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, and even having certain personality traits. For some patients, it happens only occasionally and goes away on its own. For many others, it’s a nightly (and sometimes daily) occurrence and has likely been going on for quite some time.

Besides the headaches, jaw pain, and tired muscles, it can cause damage to your mouth if left untreated. Bruxism can cause flattening, fracturing, or chipping of the teeth. It can also significantly wear down tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to sensitivity and decay. Not only that, but it can mess with your bite alignment and cause chronic tension headaches. If you notice that you grind or clench your teeth during the day, you can take mindful measures to stop yourself by taking deep breaths, finding different coping methods for stress, anger, or anxiety, or consulting with your doctor about ways to stop the habit. If  you’re grinding or clenching you teeth at night, you should consult with your dentist. Most of the time, a mouth guard can be created to wear at night and help protect your teeth from further damage.

Parents should take note if they notice their child grinding or clenching their teeth. It’s not unusual for children to exhibit bruxism, often as a concentration or coping tactic, and it usually goes away as they grow up. However, if the grinding is severe, it can cause damage to the teeth. Consult with your child’s dentist if you notice them showing signs of bruxism.

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Dr. Bonnie Ferrell cares for patients in the Lowry neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.