In a recent blog post we talked about sensitive teeth and the various foods and habits that could lead to that common discomfort. This week, we’re going into more detail about an issue that can lead to sensitivity but is also indicative of other health issues: teeth grinding and how to treat it.
Teeth grinding, or the medical condition bruxism, is relatively common and can affect people to different degrees and for different reasons, just like tooth sensitivity.
One of the most annoying things about teeth grinding is that it happens in the background, just like breathing. Most of the time we won’t even realize we’re doing it until we notice a symptom.
Some of us grind our teeth during the day when we’re focused on tasks such as reading or driving. It also affects people in their sleep.
The fact that people grind or clench their teeth without noticing can make it aggravating to deal with. Maybe we’ll catch ourselves doing it, get more stressed out about it, which can lead to more teeth grinding – you get the picture.
Unsurprisingly, bruxism can have a negative impact on your teeth. Grinding will wear down tooth enamel, creating more sensitivity. It can also flatten parts of your teeth or cause chipping.
Beyond our teeth, bruxism can give us soreness and tightness in our jaws, including up by our ears, like an earache. It can also give us pain in our neck and face, and lead us to chew on our cheeks or tongue. Headaches are also common. Clench your teeth and feel all of the facial muscles at play. Those are the types of spots that get overworked and irritated when you grind your teeth.
We’ll break down some of the reasons why we may grind our teeth and some ways to deal with it. In many cases, the causes are indicative of other health issues. If you are feeling the symptoms, you should mention it at your next dental appointment.
What causes teeth grinding?
This is probably the first thing you think of when you hear “teeth grinding.” According to The Bruxism Association, nearly 70% of bruxism occurs as a result of stress or anxiety. Much of this can be due to job stress, which of course can affect our health in other ways. One study found that the connection between bruxism and workplace stresses seem to be most pronounced in men.
Even if you don’t think you’re particularly stressed from work, bruxism can manifest as a coping mechanism. And of course, not all stress is work related.
What we consume
High caffeine intake, smoking and alcohol consumption have all been linked to bruxism, at least as co-factors. Usually this is because they affect our sleep, which leads us to the next big cause.
People with a wide range of sleep disorders seem to have higher rates of bruxism, specifically those with existing Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Abnormal bite, missing or crooked teeth and general issues with teeth alignment are linked to higher instances of bruxism.
How to deal with bruxism
Treating an existing sleep disorder can address the underlying cause of bruxism in some people. Also avoid substances that interfere with a restful night, such as caffeine.
Dealing with stress is important for more reasons than just bruxism. It’s a serious yet common issue with a wide range of support.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done, and actively trying to not have stress can feel counterproductive. Finding out that your stress is also causing damage to your teeth doesn’t exactly help lower your anxiety levels.
While it is important to address stress at work or in your life, using a bite guard at night can help mitigate the damage from teeth grinding.
Talk to your dentist about a treatment plan. This can include some combination of stress relief and an occlusal appliance, such as a mouth guard.
It can get you on the right path to dealing with the underlying cause, and hopefully improve the health of your teeth and overall quality of life!