Teeth grinding, which is sometimes a mystery even to those affected, is often caused by extreme stress and anxiety. Also called Bruxism, teeth grinding can cause several oral health complications ranging from tooth loss, jaw soreness, hearing loss and in severe cases, TMJ or Temporomanidibular Joint Syndrome.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
For most, the cause of grating their teeth is stress or anxiety related and occurs while sleeping. In most cases, the person isn’t aware that they have the condition until someone hears the grating noise and reports it to them.
How Will I Know if I Grind My Teeth?
One of the most common ways to discover if you’re clenching or grating during the night is waking with a dull headache or a sore jaw. If you suspect that you may be afflicted, a trip to your dentist would allow them to examine your teeth for slight abnormalities or signs of jaw tenderness.
I Grind My Teeth! Help!
Some of the most common ways to stop your stress-induced habit is simply to reduce your anxiety through other activities. Start an exercise program, see a therapist or doctor to explore anti-anxiety medication options or meditation before turning in for the night. If none of this works for you, some suggest cutting out alcohol consumption, avoiding caffeinated foods and drinks, applying a warm washcloth to your jaw before bed to loosen and relax the muscles and avoiding chewing gum or other items like pens that may put extra stress on jaw or encourage the grinding behavior. If teeth grinding continues even after anti-stress measures are taken, talk to your dental professional about a quality mouth guard that can be worn while you sleep to prevent damage to your teeth.
What Can Happen in Extreme Cases Such as TMJ?
TMJ, which is fairly rare, is a serious condition that affects the jaw and the connection between the jawbone and the skull. While it can be treated with home remedies such as over-the-counter meds, stress reduction and massage, in extreme cases medical intervention is necessary. Dental splints, Botox and sometimes even dental and oral surgery on the jaw bones are the only fixes for those suffering from TMJ.
If you think you may be silently (or not so silently) releasing stress in the form of clenching or teeth grinding, start by targeting and reducing the cause of your stress to lessen the impact on your oral health and jaw and to prevent serious complications later.