Many people clench or grind their teeth occasionally, and this usually doesn’t do much harm. However, if you’re grinding your teeth often or grinding your teeth while you sleep regularly, it can result in tooth damage and other oral health problems. Here’s a closer look at what teeth grinding in your sleep is called, why it happens, the damage it can cause, and a look at the best treatment options to prevent permanent damage to your smile.
Grinding Your Teeth in Your Sleep: Sleep Bruxism
Bruxism is the medical term used for gnashing, clenching, or grinding your teeth. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common condition that affects 30-40 million people in the United States. It can include unconsciously clenching and grinding while you’re awake, known as awake bruxism, or grinding or clenching while sleeping, which is known as sleep bruxism. Mild, irregular bruxism may not need to be treated, but if it’s causing any pain or resulting in enamel damage, it’s important to talk to your dentist about the correct bruxism treatment.
Why You Grind Your Teeth in Your Sleep
If you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw, you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep. There are many potential causes of sleep bruxism, including:
- Stress and Anxiety – Stress and anxiety affect your body more than you think. If you worry a lot, you’re more likely to clench your jaw and grind your teeth during the night.
- Tooth Problems – Missing teeth or crooked teeth, or a misalignment jaw could be responsible for your teeth grinding.
- Other Medical Issues – Some diseases or disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, and even taking certain types of medications can cause you to grind your teeth at night. Sleep apnea is also known to lead to nighttime grinding and clenching.
Common Teeth Grinding Symptoms
In can be hard to know if you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep unless you have a sore jaw in the morning or if you have someone hear your teeth clench throughout the night. Here are a few of the most common teeth grinding symptoms to look for when trying to figure out if you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep:
- Fractured, chipped, loose, or flattened teeth
- Increasing sensitivity or pain in a tooth
- Clenching or grinding that’s loud enough to wake up a partner
- Pain that feels like a bad earache although your ear doesn’t have a problem
- Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing
- Tooth enamel that’s excessively worn
- Neck, face, or jaw soreness or pain
- Tight or tired jaw muscles
- Headaches in the morning around your temples
- Disruption in your sleep from grinding
The Dangers of Grinding Your Teeth in Your Sleep
If you’re grinding your teeth at night regularly, it can result in some serious problems. Some common side effects of bruxism include tooth loss, fractured teeth, receding gums, and damage to crowns and other restorations. The most worrisome results of teeth grinding are TMD and enamel damage.
TMD, or Temporomandibular Disorder, is pain or compromised movement of the jaw, particularly the temporomandibular joint, also referred to as TMJ. One of the most common causes of TMD is excessive teeth grinding. You may experience trouble chewing, opening your mouth widely, and even facial swelling from TMD.
Enamel damage is irreversible, meaning once your enamel is gone, you can’t restore it. When you are constantly clenching and grinding your teeth, the pressure of your teeth pressing against each other is enough to chip away teeth fragments.
Bruxism Treatment Options
The exact treatment for bruxism will often depend on the root cause. If grinding your teeth at night is caused by missing teeth or a misalignment, this may need to be addressed with orthodontic treatment to solve the problem completely. If your teeth grinding is related to a sleep issue like sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend that you see a sleep specialist. When stress is the cause, finding ways to manage your stress and anxiety may help.
No matter the exact cause of teeth grinding in sleep, the best way to keep your teeth protected and prevent dental problems is to have your dentist fit you for a mouth guard specifically for teeth grinding. These plastic mouthpieces are custom made to fit your mouth and teeth, and will prevent your teeth from grinding together at night. You’ll only need to wear the night guard at bedtime, and it can address a grinding problem early before it results in significant damage to your teeth.
Grinding your teeth at night can result in serious damage, and failing to address it may lead to the need for tooth restorations to maintain and improve oral function. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, set up an appointment and talk to your dentist.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.