Why Grinding Your Teeth Is Bad for Your Health

teeth grinding

You’re on your grind all day – at work, with the kids and everywhere in between. You’re thriving and loving every minute. But when it’s time to sleep, you should be able to leave “the grind” behind and rest for another big day tomorrow.

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding happens when you clench your upper jaw while grinding your lower set of teeth. Bruxism is a subconscious behavior that primarily happens during sleep, leading many to become unaware they are suffering from it. Learn about the cause, symptoms and treatment of bruxism with Imran Patel, doctor of medicine in dentistry at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

Bruxism can be caused by stress, anxiety and dehydration. This said, in serious conditions, teeth grinding is a sign of sleep apnea, a condition causing the throat muscles to relax while sleeping, blocking airways and interruption breathing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with sleep apnea have also been found to be at an increased risk for hypertension, irregular heartbeats, coronary heart disease and stroke

Dr. Patel says “Teeth grinding causes wear of enamel, the outermost layer of the tooth and white in color. When enamel wears off it exposes dentin, the next layer which is yellow in color. Dentin is softer than enamel and can wear faster. Clenching not only wears the teeth at the level of chewing surface but also causes teeth damage where teeth met the gums. One will notice cracks or breakdown of tooth structure at the gum levels.”

How Do I Know If I’m Grinding My Teeth?

Many people learn they are suffering from bruxism from a partner who hears them grinding their teeth while sleeping. If you have any of the following symptoms, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your general practitioner.

  • Sore facial muscles
  • Headaches
  • Ear Aches
  • Temporomandibular joint damage (TMJ)
  • Fractured teeth
  • Sensitive teeth

The Treatment for Teeth Grinding

There are a variety of treatment options when it comes to bruxism, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Stress and anxiety are one of the largest factors of bruxism, so your doctor may recommend a sleeping aid and/or prescribed medication to help ease your nerves and relax. Your doctor may also recommend you avoid alcohol and caffeine a few hours before bed, as well as removing chewy foods like gum from your diet to remove soreness and let your jaw receive a break. Dr. Patel also recommends asking your doctor if a splint is the right option for you. A custom-made splint can protect teeth and help relax muscles in the jaw.

Teeth grinding can lead to jaw disorders, headache and damaged teeth. If you believe you’re suffering from bruxism, find a Banner doctor near you to discuss your symptoms and create a treatment plan.  

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