Are you one of the 40 million Americans that grind their teeth? If so, you’re not alone. Bruxism, or involuntary teeth grinding, is a common problem that many people are not even aware they have.
Though some people experience grinding while awake, it most frequently happens while asleep. A loved one may have noticed you grinding in the middle of the night, or sometimes you may wake up with a weak headache or soreness in your jaw, but it’s easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention.
What is the Cause of Teeth Grinding?
Stress and anxiety can be the culprits of bruxism. However, in many cases it’s caused by crooked teeth or an abnormal bite. It is also commonly experienced by those who suffer from sleep apnea.
Over time, teeth grinding can be damaging to your smile. It can lead to many undesirable consequences such as fracturing, loosening or lose of teeth. It can also cause TMJ—a chronic inflammation of the jaw—to develop or worsen.
Alcohol and caffeine are shown to aggravate the condition, so it’s best to avoid those if you suffer from bruxism. Another thing you want to watch out for are your stress levels. Taking care to exercise regularly or even seeing a counselor to develop good coping habits should help symptoms.
What Can You Do If You Grind Your Teeth?
If you suspect you might be grinding your teeth, make it a point to talk to your dentist. They can determine through an examination whether or not it’s actually occurring and how bad the problem is.
Your dentist may prescribe muscle relaxants to prevent your jaw muscles from tensing. Another great defense against grinding at night is a custom night guard. Your dentist can have one made specifically for your mouth—so you don’t have to bother with the drugstore varieties—so you don’t wake up with headaches or soreness as often.
Next time you receive your 6-month checkup, ask your dentist about teeth grinding. And remember, keeping up with those biannual dental visits can prevent serious damage—so don’t neglect them!