Do you ever wake up with a sore jaw and you’re pretty certain you weren’t in a fight? Teeth grinding (or bruxism as it’s medically known as) is most likely the culprit. One in three people suffer from bruxism—often caused by stress, pain or fear but sometimes from a more serious cause such as an abnormal bite or missing/crooked teeth.
A lot of us don’t even realize we’re chronic teeth grinders until symptoms like dull headaches, sore jaws and tense muscle begin to occur; and by that point some damage may have occurred to your teeth such as:
- Tooth sensitivity
- The chewing surfaces of teeth are flat
- Enamel has worn off
- Fracturing, loosening or losing of teeth
Severe grinding may even wear down the teeth stumps and result in bridges, crowns, root canals, implants and even dentures to be needed
It’s vital to seek dental treatment if you believe you suffer from bruxism. Your dental professional can help pin point the cause of your grinding and examine your mouth for signs such as teeth wear and jaw tenderness. They may offer you a custom made mouth guard to wear while you sleep—to absorb the strength of your teeth grinding and clenching. Other tips they may offer are:
- Try to avoid stressful situations
- Stay away from coffee, pop, chocolate or any other food and drink containing caffeine
- Try relaxing your jaw before bed by applying a warm washcloth against your cheek
- Stop chewing on pens, pencils, fingernails and even stopping to smoke can help
- Try to self-train yourself to not grind or clench by positioning your tongue between your teeth, this helps train the jaw muscles to relax.
As surprising as it may sound, teeth grinding is not just limited to adults; your little ones can suffer from it too! Anywhere from 15%-33% of children up to the age of 11 will grind their teeth at certain times in their lives—the majority being when their baby teeth are breaking through as well as when their permanent teeth come in.
Although it’s rare for any problems to occur from grinding of the baby teeth, they still can suffer from a sore jaw, headaches and/or tooth sensitivity, and should be monitored carefully.
Some tips to help your little ones stop their teeth grinding can include:
- Massaging them to relax their muscles
- Offering an over the counter pain medication if they are grinding from teething pain
- Decrease their stress before bed
- Making sure they are well hydrated as dehydration can be a cause of teeth grinding
- Avoid a lot of pop, chocolates, sport drinks and juices
The good news is that excessive treatment is not needed as most children will lose the habit once their teeth have fully grown in.