Chronic teeth grinding, or bruxism is a condition characterized by the clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth, usually during sleep.
If you sleep alone, it’s often difficult to tell if you suffer from bruxism. However, some telltale signs and symptoms can help you identify yourself as a teeth grinder as well as a few effective tips to give your poor jaw and teeth a good night’s rest.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
If you wake up with a sore jaw, sore gums, or sensitive teeth, you may be grinding your teeth while you sleep. Upon waking up, you will often notice the following telltale symptoms of bruxism:
- You may catch yourself in the act or wake to the sound of grinding teeth.
- Your jaw or teeth may be sore and tender in the morning.
- You may notice extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures or feel pain when brushing teeth.
- You may see torn tissues inside your mouth and on the inner linings of your cheeks from teeth-gnashing
- Your gums may be tender, inflamed, or bleed.
Ask Your Partner to Observe You While You Sleep
If you sleep in the same bed as a spouse or partner or even share a room with a sibling, ask them to watch you while you slumber to confirm that you were grinding your teeth during the night.
Record Yourself During Sleep
There’s also other ways to tell if you have this condition if you live alone,it might not be practical but you can always record yourself while you sleep. Use a pocket tape recorder or smartphone and press record as you’re falling asleep and then listen to the recording in the morning for signs of grinding and teeth gnashing.
Visit Your Dentist
Another way to diagnose bruxism is to call on a professional. Your dentist can examine your mouth and jaw for symptoms such as jaw tenderness, ground-down teeth, and damage. Your dentist can also prescribe a mouth guard to prevent future grinding and protect your teeth and jaw.
Break Bad Chewing Habits
To help you break bad teeth grinding habits, look at your go-to stress habits in daily life. For instance, do you chew on pencils and pens when stressed at work? This daytime bad habit can transfer to a nighttime bad habit. So be conscious of bad eating behaviors during the day to ensure you are only chewing on food.
Reducing your stress level is another way to combat bruxism. Most teeth grinding cases are linked to further stress during sleep. So be sure to avoid using backlit electronics like smartphones, tablets, and laptops at least 3 hours before bed. Also, get adequate exercise, take regular yoga classes, meditate, listen to soothing music, take baths before bed, and work on banishing stress from your life.
Examine Your Diet
What you eat when you’re awake can have a lot to do with your mood and sleep patterns. For instance, those who lack certain essential vitamins and nutrients in their diets are prone to restless slumber and teeth grinding. If you are calcium or magnesium deficient, take a daily multivitamin or supplement with meals.
Skip the Caffeine at Night
Caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate are culprits when it comes to sleep deprivation. So do yourself and your jaw a favor, skip the stimulants in the evening hours to ensure a more restful night’s sleep.
Create a Relaxing Environment
Stress reduction is mental as well as physical (i.e., exercise and diet). And creating a relaxing environment at home, particularly before bed, will promote a more restful sleep with less risk of teeth grinding during the night. Impose nightly activities that promote a relaxing environment before bed—such as baths, drinking herbal tea, meditation, massage, and use a heating pad or hot cloth on your jaw to keep it supple during rest.
The Consequences of Bruxism
Over the years, the accumulated toll of bruxing can produce a broad range of damage that includes:
- Front teeth are worn down, so they are flat and even in length.
- Micro-cracks and broken fillings, eventually leading to nerve damage.
- Teeth ground down to the dentin, causing sensitivity to heat and cold.
- Gum recession, due to pressure on the gum line.
- Loose teeth, caused by the rocking effect of bruxing, and gum pockets, also produced by the back-and-forth rocking effect.
- Headaches and aching jaws due to overuse of muscles.
While there is no cure for bruxism, the condition can be managed through treatment. If you suspect that you clench or grind your teeth, consult our specialists to undergo a bruxism evaluation. Your dentist is in the best position to evaluate the extent of wear and tear on your teeth, gums, and jaw, and to provide a practical remedy to offset further damage.
The Custom-Fitted Mouth Guard Remedy
One such practical solution is the use of a bite plate or mouth guard that has been custom-fitted to fit your jaw. Wearable day or night, it acts as a bumper guard, absorbing the force of the clenching or grinding. While horseshoe-shaped over-the-counter night guards are also available, they tend to be uncomfortable and are so soft that they may get chewed away. Also, over-the-counter night guards do not account for occlusal discrepancies that may be the source of your bruxing problems; a night guard custom fabricated by your dentist’s laboratory technician does.
Unfortunately, many of the soft night guards stimulate a wearer to grind in their sleep. Although a soft night guard may protect the teeth, the muscles and jaw joints will not be protected; thus, many muscle symptoms (such as headaches), will increase with the use of soft appliances. Custom-fitted plates, made of hard acrylic, can help bruxers avoid such problems.