Your jaw feels sore when you wake up in the morning and you have a dull headache. You might wonder what brought it on — are you dehydrated, did you try to bite down too hard on a crunchy food, or did you sleep in a funny position?
It could be one of the above or something else entirely. For example, you could grind or clench your teeth at night. Many people experience teeth grinding or clenching, aka bruxism, during their sleep.
The condition can be a tricky thing to detect. Unless the sound of your teeth gnashing together is loud enough to wake you (or your partner) up, it can be difficult to know for sure if you’re doing it or not. About 80 percent of teeth grinding episodes aren’t noisy.
Usually, a person figures out that they are grinding their teeth after a visit to their dentist and a description of the list of symptoms they’re experiencing. If you think you’re grinding or clenching your teeth at night, get to know the common signs and symptoms and a few reasons why you might be doing it.
Recognizing the Signs of Teeth Grinding and Clenching
The signs of teeth grinding, or clenching can seem like the symptoms of another condition, which is why it’s a good idea to see a dentist if you think you’re grinding your teeth during your sleep. Common symptoms include:
- Headaches (or neck aches). Usually, the head pain is dull and near the temples.
- Changes in the appearance of the teeth. Grinding or clenching your teeth can wear away the enamel, causing the teeth to look flatter. Bruxism can also chip the teeth. Depending on the extent of the damage done, a person might need a dental crown or even a full replacement of the damaged tooth.
- Teeth that feel loose. Pressure on the teeth can cause them to become loose. Grinding or clenching the teeth can also cause fillings to become loose. May notice tooth movement with loose teeth.
- A sore jaw. If you’re clenching your jaw muscles while grinding your teeth, you might wake up with a tight, sore jaw or limited opening each morning.
There may be no noticeable symptoms, just changes in the teeth that are noted by the dentist upon exam. Now that you know what to look for to determine whether you’re grinding your teeth, let’s take a look at a few of the common reasons for bruxism.
Reason 1: You’re Stressed Out
Think about how your body feels when you’ve got too much on your plate and you’re stressed out. You usually feel tense and on edge. In some people, that tension can translate into bruxism. They’ve got so much stress that they can’t fully relax, even in sleep.
It’s not only having stress that can contribute to bruxism. How you deal with stress can also play a role. If you do feel under a lot of pressure in your daily life or at work and you think it’s affecting your sleep, try talking to your dentist or another medical professional about ways to reduce stress. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises and meditation might be able to help you.
Reason 2: Your Teeth Aren’t Properly Aligned
Sometimes, the cause of bruxism has nothing to do with your mind and everything to do with your teeth. When the teeth are misaligned, or the bite is uneven, it’s often more likely that a person will grind their teeth during sleep.
Reason 3: You Have a Sleep Disorder
Some studies have shown that there is a connection between people with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and bruxism. When a person has sleep apnea, they temporarily stop breathing during sleep. Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring very loudly and gasping for air in your sleep. People who grind their teeth and have sleep apnea usually grind at the end of an episode of halted breathing, often as a way to rouse themselves from sleep.
In many cases, people who have sleep apnea and who grind their teeth see the issue resolve when they treat the sleep apnea.
What to Do If You Grind or Clench Your Teeth at Night
If you think you’ve been grinding or clenching your teeth at night, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist to get to the bottom of the problem. A dentist can recommend treatment, in St, Petersburg, FL, based on the underlying cause of the bruxism or on what seems to be the best option for you.
One common treatment for bruxism is to have you wear a nightguard over your teeth while you sleep. Custom-fit to your mouth and made of a hard (or acrylic) material, a nightguard reduces pressure on your teeth and can help you learn to ease up the tension in your jaw as you sleep.
In some cases, self-care or preventative measures can make you less likely to grind your teeth. Your dentist might recommend that you try the following:
- Cut back on caffeine, tobacco or alcohol. A review of studies found a connection between the use of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol and bruxism. If you smoke, your dentist can help you find a smoking cessation program if you are ready to quit. If you drink alcohol or caffeine, try cutting back on either or both, especially right before bed.
- Practice jaw relaxation exercises. Learning to relax the jaw can help reduce instances of teeth grinding. Here’s how to perform one exercise: Open your mouth as wide as you can without straining. Lift the tongue and touch it to the back of the top front teeth. You should feel your jaw muscles relax right away.
- Try to avoid chewing on non-food objects. Chewing on gum, pens, or toothpicks can build up tension in the jaw, making it more likely that you will grind and clench your teeth.
Taking care of your mouth doesn’t only mean cleaning the teeth and gums. It also means solving any problems that are causing you significant discomfort, such as teeth grinding. At Klement Family Dental in St. Petersburg, FL., our team of dental professionals aims to provide comfortable care that’s convenient for our patients. If you’re concerned about teeth grinding, contact us to make an appointment today.