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Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unconciously. Teeth Grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm if it’s occasional, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be worn down, significantly damaged and at a higher risk of fracture. Constant pressure on the teeth and constant jaw muscle activity can also result in headaches and pain in the jaw joint, commonly known as the TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint). Often times, patients with TMJ disorders are screened for parafunctional habits of clenching or grinding as their symptoms can be attributed to constant, irregular bite forces created by clenching or grinding.

So why do people grind or clench their teeth????

No specific correlation has been linked to anything in particular but grinding/clenching is usually broughtby stress and anxiety. It can occur while awake, but often occurs during sleep. Although not proven with any solid research, theory suggests that uneven bite and crooked teeth can shift the bite forces on one side of the mouth more than the other causing jaw muscles to fire actively.

How can you find out if you’re grinding/clenching????

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is usually a good sign. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night. Wear patterns on the teeth when examined by dentists is also able to distinguish possibility of grinding.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and wear patterns in your teeth including signs of craze lines, fractures or secondary periodontal disease caused by traumatic grinding/clenching.

Risks of Grinding

Constant teeth grinding can result in a generalized sensitivity in teeth, fracturing, loosening, or even loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down significantly exposing the more sensitive tooth structure of dentin. When these events happen, more invasive restorations such as root canals, crowns, bridges and sometime even a tooth removal may be required.

Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, resulting in the TMJ problems as mentioned earlier. Worn down teeth can cause the facial profile to look much older due to inadequate tooth support for the lips and cheek muscles that surround the mouth.

Lack of adequate tooth height, inappropriate shape and dark color of teeth can cause aesthetic compromises and may cause social awkwardness in individuals.

How can I Stop Grinding?

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep or even when you’re awake.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program like yoga, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered depending on signs and symptoms once examined by your dentist.

Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:

  • Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain acidic content such as colas, sport beverages, excessive juice.
  • Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
  • Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid biting your nails. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching, making them stronger and making you more likely to grind your teeth.
  • Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, stretch your jaw muscles by finger pressure massage and opening and closing in a normal range five-ten times within a few minutes. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe and again stretching your jaw muscles after finger pressure massage.

As always, consult your dental care provider for a proper examination and evaluation. Please call Round Lake Family Dentistry at (847) 740-0217 to schedule your appointment today.