Bruxism is the involuntary, unconscious, and excessive grinding of teeth. It can occur while you’re awake, but it also frequently happens at night and is harder to detect — especially when you do it in your sleep. It’s a common occurrence for many, so it may seem like no big deal at first. However, if persistent teeth grinding goes ignored and unaddressed, it can lead to more complicated dental issues in the future. If you’re wondering if you grind your teeth at night, but can’t seem to make sense of the symptoms, here are a few signs of bruxism to take note of the moment you wake up:
Grinding your teeth at night can cause muscle spasms in your jaw, neck, and even shoulders. Constantly experiencing this could leave you with pain or soreness in the lower part of your face. In some cases, you may experience locking or clicking sensations when you move the area.
Chipped or cracked teeth
One of the most common signs of bruxism is the damage it does to your teeth. During sleep, you are putting pressure on different parts of your teeth when you grind them together, causing them to weaken as the enamel wears down. This combined pressure and weakness can cause your teeth to flatten, crack, or loosen.
The chronic clenching of your teeth can also break down their protective enamel. This leads to increased sensitivity, and it may become uncomfortable to eat very cold or very hot food and liquids. This sensitivity is brought on by the exposure of the dentin layer of your teeth, which allows access to your nerves.
Other than your teeth, your gums can also be affected by bruxism. This can cause them to become sore or to recede. When your gums recede, more of your teeth are exposed, including their roots. This is another cause of teeth sensitivity.
Headaches and earaches
The constant pressure and motion of grinding can also lead to dull pain in the head, temples, and even ears. This force can put your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw joint and the surrounding muscles under a lot of stress. As these muscles span your jaw, cheeks, and the sides of your head, teeth grinding can cause headaches or earaches. If gone untreated, your bruxism can cause jaw joint disorder.
How to Manage Teeth Grinding
Though these are common signs of habitual teeth grinding, on their own, some of these symptoms may not be directly linked to bruxism. Of course, it’s always good to consult with your dentist or primary care physician first to check if there’s anything else amiss. If your symptoms are causing you a lot of discomfort but you don’t have the time or means to visit a clinic there is another option. Telemedicine software will allow you to meet virtually with clinicians, removing roadblocks if you’re a vulnerable, differently-abled, or too busy person for whom in-person healthcare visits are an obstacle to check-ups. It can make healthcare easier and more accessible for you and make dealing with medical needs less disruptive to life.
Another way you can manage your bruxism is to figure out any stressors in your life that may be causing you to grind your teeth, then find ways to practice relaxation and mindfulness. Using a mouthguard can also protect your teeth, so that the clenching doesn’t trigger any pain in your jaw or head, or amplify any other dental problems.