Have you ever awoken with a sore jaw or a headache? Have you ever been told by your partner that you make loud crackling noises with your teeth while sleeping?
If this is the case, you may suffer from teeth grinding (also known as bruxism). If so, you are not alone! According to professional dentists, bruxism is a widespread condition among the adult population, affecting up to 80% of adults during their lifetime.
Tooth grinding is the involuntary rubbing or grinding of your upper teeth against your lower teeth. This usually happens when you're asleep or preoccupied with something else (i.e., you're not consciously aware you're doing it) - often, the first time patients realize they grind their teeth is when they're asked or told by a dentist! Dentists can tell because we see it when patients grind their teeth to the point of causing damage or tooth wear.
The exact cause of tooth grinding is unknown, but several factors have been linked to the condition:
This can result in hyperactive jaw muscles and is especially common during stressful times at work or school (such as when someone is going through exam periods). In addition, the adrenaline hormone is thought to play a significant role in causing subconscious reflexes in the jaw muscles.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders or worry a lot are more likely to grind their teeth. This is because anxiety often manifests in physical symptoms, such as clenched jaw muscles and teeth grinding.
Sleep bruxism has been linked to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea (a breathing disorder that causes interrupted breathing during sleep) and insomnia (trouble sleeping).
There seems to be a genetic component to tooth grinding, as it often runs in families. If your parents or grandparents ground their teeth, you're more likely to do so.
Certain medical conditions have been linked to bruxism, such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Abnormal Biting or Missing Teeth
An improper bite (when your upper and lower teeth don't fit together correctly) or missing teeth can trigger tooth grinding. This is because your jaw muscles work harder to compensate for the misalignment, which can lead to clenching or teeth grinding.
Certain medications have been linked to tooth grinding, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and some drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, tea, or soda) can dehydrate the mouth and lead to teeth grinding. This is because dehydration can make the jaw muscles more prone to clenching and grinding.
What Are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?
The most common symptom of teeth grinding is a dull, constant headache that originates from the temples. You may also notice sore jaw or neck muscles and feel like your teeth are "sore" or "tender." In addition, you may experience ear pain, facial pain, and even tooth loss in severe cases.
You do not have to worry much if you experience the above mentioned things. Here at Monahan Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we often see patients with one or more symptoms. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, we encourage you to schedule an appointment so we can take a look and see if there is any damage.