How To Stop Teeth Grinding and Clenching

Do you find yourself grinding or clenching your teeth or jaw? Maybe you’ve noticed your jaw aching or your teeth seem to be suddenly wearing down? Bruxism could be the underlying cause of your unusual symptoms.

Let’s dive into the common causes of bruxism, why it happens, and how a dentist like Dr. Monroe can help you get relief.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is a unique disorder that causes people to grind, clench, and gnash their teeth and jaw. Kids often develop bruxism early in childhood but gradually outgrow it by their early teens. However, bruxism can develop at any time, even late into adulthood.

There are two types of bruxism – awake and asleep.

Awake Bruxism

Awake bruxism is a behavioral disorder that occurs when a person is awake, although that doesn’t always mean the person is aware of what they’re doing. Awake bruxism can happen subconsciously, often as a response to stress triggers.

Sleep Bruxism

Sleep bruxism is a movement disorder that occurs when a person is at any stage of sleep. While awake bruxism is usually a stress response, sleep bruxism is most often a symptom of some other sleep disorder, like sleep apnea.

Sleep bruxism is about twice as common as awake bruxism.

Why does bruxism happen?

Bruxism can happen for several reasons, whether it be a response to emotions or a symptom of a different disorder. Doctors and dentists can summarize these different factors into three primary causes of bruxism.

1. Behavioral Stress

If you’re experiencing a lot of stressful events, feelings of anxiety and frustration, or going through a period of depression, you’re much more likely to experience awake bruxism. It’s a physical response to the internal tension in your mind.

2. Physical Stress

If your body is under physical stress, awake bruxism can occur. For example, people who live with chronic daily pain due to a medical condition may develop bruxism as a coping mechanism for feeling uncomfortable. Bruxism caused by a TMJ disorder falls into this category.

3. Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea, frequently cause sleep bruxism. It can occur as a result of physical stress (i.e., inability to fall or stay asleep) or when a person’s sleep apnea brings them out of deep sleep, but not to the point of waking up.

Personality, medical history, family history, lifestyle habits, and medication use are all additional factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing bruxism.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Warning signs of undiagnosed bruxism include:

  • Grinding and clenching the teeth
  • Clenching and flexing the jaw
  • Generalized jaw and tooth pain
  • Tension headaches, often upon waking up
  • Teeth wearing down or cracking
  • Broken dental restorations
  • Stereotypical localized TMJ pain

Left untreated, bruxism can significantly impact your life, well-being, and oral health. Your teeth will become permanently damaged, your TMJ joint can develop chronic inflammation, and sleep bruxism can contribute to sleep deprivation.

Remember that bruxism is often a symptom of a more significant behavioral or medical issue. Seeking treatment for your bruxism doesn’t just stop the habit; it’s also the first step toward alleviating the underlying problem.

How can I relieve bruxism symptoms?

The first step toward relieving bruxism is to figure out what’s causing the behavior. Improving your lifestyle is essential, but a dentist should always evaluate even mild bruxism symptoms.

If you’ve noticed bruxing during the day, evaluate your current lifestyle and what seems to be triggering your teeth grinding. If your job or personal life has been making you feel incredibly stressed lately, start practicing some self-care.

Make sure you take the time to decompress before bed and during the day, and use journaling, breathing exercises, and mini-meditation sessions to keep your emotions balanced.

If you suspect you’re experiencing sleep bruxism, you’ll need help from a medical professional. You can’t treat sleep bruxism or sleep apnea on your own.

What can my dentist do to help?

Your dentist plays a vital role in diagnosing and treating bruxism and reversing the damage it might have already caused.

A popular treatment for bruxism is oral appliances worn at night. Sometimes these are also called nightguards. There are two ways these special oral mouthguards treat bruxism. First, they physically protect the teeth from grinding. Second, they can protect the teeth while keeping the airway open.

If your bruxism is caused by a bad bite or a TMJ disorder, your dentist can evaluate these causes and create a treatment plan to alleviate the problem. Your bruxism will naturally stop once your teeth and jaw are happy, healthy, and well-aligned.

In addition to treating the cause of your bruxism, your dentist will also be able to repair any damage. Restorative and cosmetic dentistry offers several solutions for rebuilding worn enamel, giving teeth a better size and shape, and strengthening cracked or broken teeth.

Dr. Monroe can evaluate your bruxism symptoms.

Dr. Monroe is an experienced and knowledgeable family dentist in Greenville, SC, who can help you with your untreated bruxism. Don’t wait to see if your bruxism goes away on its own. Schedule a consultation today to determine why your bruxism is happening and how Dr. Monroe can help you get relief.

Book your visit by calling Monroe Family Dentistry or requesting an appointment online.