Most people are not aware that they grind their teeth. Tooth grinding (medically called bruxism) often occurs during sleep and is linked to other dental and overall health issues such as TMJ disorders and sleep apnea. Chronic teeth grinding may result in loosening or the loss of teeth and can even cause fracturing or may wear the teeth down to stumps.
When this happens the dentist will more than likely recommend a restorative procedure such as:
- Partial or complete dentures
- Root Canals
Signs of Tooth Grinding
Unless a family member lets you know that you grind your teeth while sleeping, you may not be aware of it. Not everyone grinds their teeth while sleeping. Stressful situations can also cause people to grind their teeth. Dr. Elliott looks for the signs of bruxism during dental exams and can offer treatment options. Signs of tooth grinding are:
- Dull headaches
- Jaw tenderness
- Excessive wear on the teeth
How to Stop Tooth Grinding
If grinding your teeth is the result of stress, you may want to have a discussion with your medical doctor or dentist about available options to help reduce your stress. Several options that may help you reduce stress are:
- Developing an exercise program
- Seeing a physical therapist or a stress counselor
- Visiting with Dr. Elliott for a dental exam
Suffering from a sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnea or Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) can also cause tooth grinding. Similar to sleep apnea, UARS is a condition when the inability to breathe leads to sleep interruption. It does not lower oxygen levels in the blood like sleep apnea.
You should request a referral for a specialist from your primary care physician or consult a board-certified sleep apnea doctor for diagnosis and treatment of a possible sleep disorder.
Other ways to help stop tooth grinding include:
- Have your dentist fit you for a mouth guard to wear at night to prevent tooth grinding.
- Place a warm washcloth against your cheek, in front of your earlobe at night to help relax your jaw muscles.
- Do not chew on anything that is not food (pencils, pens, etc.).
- Avoid chewing gum because it works the jaw muscle to clench causing you to grind your teeth.
- Avoid foods that contain caffeine (coffee, chocolate, soda).
- If you clench or grind your teeth during the day, you can train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth by positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This relaxes your jaw.
If you are experiencing any of the signs of tooth grinding, you should let Dr. Melissa Elliott and the team at Harford County Dentistry evaluate, diagnose and provide a treatment option that will help to improve your condition. Contact us to schedule an appointment.