Do you often experience headaches and pain in your jaw? Do you have sensitive teeth? You may be suffering from “bruxism”. Bruxism is defined as recurrent clenching and grinding of the teeth and can cause cracked teeth, sensitivity, headaches, jaw pain, and stress fractures in your teeth.
Bruxism is extremely common and can stem from many sources. Diet and exercise can contribute to bruxism, and is so common among those suffering from alcoholism that past cultures would describe that alcoholics could be identified by “the gnashing of teeth, both awake and asleep”. Pain in your mouth can also lead you to clench your teeth and grind them together.
Many people suffering from bruxism say that they don’t realize that they are grinding or clenching because the behavior occurs when they sleep. Sleep position and inconsistent sleep habits can contribute to bruxism. The position in which you sleep can exacerbate acid reflux while you are sleeping, and it is typical for your body to react by clenching your teeth in reaction to the acid that is being regurgitated into your throat.
Allergies can also lead to bruxism. When you swallow the drainage from postnasal drip, most of us have a tendency to clench the jaw. This can occur at night when you sleep or during the day. While decongestants and antihistamines can help, these drugs may also increase your tendency to clench or grind your teeth, creating a cycle that makes it difficult to address your bruxism.
In many cases, patients only discover that they are clenching their teeth because of other symptoms. If you suffer from headaches, jaw pain, or tooth sensitivity, it’s important to have your dentist examine your teeth to determine whether or not your symptoms are related to bruxism. Your dentist can detect stress fractures in your teeth — the telltale signs of bruxism.
Diet changes and a consistent sleep schedule can do a lot to ease the severity of your bruxism. For many patients, however, these measures do not address nighttime clenching and grinding. If you have acid reflux or allergies, you may find it difficult to address overnight clenching. The most effective way to reduce damage and treat symptoms is often the use of a mouthguard that you can wear while you sleep. Mouthguards can disrupt the clenching and grinding and prevent the problems associated with bruxism. Even if you continue to grind your teeth, your mouthguard protects your teeth and reduces the chances that you will crack or break a tooth.
Avoid damage to your teeth and ask your dentist to check your teeth for stress cracks during your regular cleanings. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, you could be clenching when you sleep and causing damage to your teeth. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk with your dentist about what you are feeling so that you and your dentist can discuss the treatment.
Learn more about the causes of tooth sensitivity in our blog article. Feel free to call us to set up an appointment to determine if a mouthguard might be right for you. We’re here to help!