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Teeth Grinding

Sleep disorders can come in a variety of forms. In some cases, we may not even know we have them – teeth grinding can be one of those conditions. The caring staff at Banner Health is here to help treat any and all sleep disorders.

What is Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) is a condition in which a person grinds, clenches or gnashes their teeth. People who suffer from teeth grinding may clench their teeth while awake (awake bruxism) or clench and grind them while sleeping (sleep bruxism). People who grind their teeth may also suffer from other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or snoring.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

People who grind their teeth may be unaware they do this until complications develop. Common symptoms of teeth grinding may include:

  • Fractured, flattened, chipped or loose teeth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Grinding or clenching that can me loud enough to wake a sleep partner
  • Tired, tight or locked jaw muscles
  • Jaw or neck pain and soreness
  • Pain that feels like an earache
  • Dull headache that starts at the temples
  • Damage from chewing the inside of the cheek
  • Sleep disruption

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above or any other concerns about your teeth and jaw.

Children can also suffer from teeth grinding. If your child shows any signs or symptoms of teeth grinding, be sure to mention it at their next doctor’s appointment.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

While there is no definitive cause for teeth grinding, doctors believe it may be a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors.

Teeth grinding or clenching that happen while awake can be caused by emotions like stress, anger, anxiety, frustration or tension. This type of clenching can be used as a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration.

Clenching, chewing or grinding that happens during sleep is usually caused by arousals during sleep.

There are also certain risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of teeth grinding, such as:

  • Increased stress, anxiety, frustration or anger
  • Age – Teeth grinding is more common in children and is likely to go away as an adult
  • Genetic factors
  • An aggressive, hyperactive or competitive personality type can increase the risk for teeth grinding
  • Medications and other substances, such as tobacco, caffeine, alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Teeth grinding can be associated with a variety of other disorders including, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, sleep apnea, or ADHD.

Diagnosis for Teeth Grinding

Dentists will usually check for signs of teeth grinding during regular dental exams. Your doctor will examine the changes in your teeth and mouth over the next several visits to determine if you need treatment.

If your dentist identifies signs of teeth grinding, they will try to determine the cause by asking questions about your general dental health, sleep habits, daily routines or medications. In order to evaluate the extent of your teeth grinding, a dentist will check for obvious dental abnormalities (broken teeth), damage to the underlying bone and inside of your cheeks or tenderness in the jaw muscles.

Based on the evaluation, your doctor may determine that your teeth grinding is caused by a sleep disorder. If this is the case, you may be referred to a sleep medicine specialist for further testing that will assess episodes of grinding while asleep or help diagnose other sleep disorders.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

In most cases, treatment isn’t necessary for teeth grinding. Children usually outgrow teeth grinding and many adults don’t grind badly enough to require treatment. However, severe teeth grinding will require other medical or dental treatment to relieve jaw discomfort or prevent further tooth damage.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest solutions to preserve or improve your teeth, such as splints and mouth guards to avoid tooth damage or dental correction to reshape the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

When teeth grinding is caused by other external factors, your doctor may suggest one of the following methods:

  • Stress or anxiety management
  • Behavior change to help you practice proper mouth and jaw position
  • Biofeedback methods that monitor and teach you to control muscle activity in the jaw

If these methods don’t seem to work, your doctor may suggest medications for teeth grinding. Medication can help if your teeth grinding is caused by an associated condition Some medications your doctor may suggest include:

  • Botox injections for people who suffer from severe teeth grinding and have not responded well to other treatment methods
  • Muscle relaxants that can be taken before bedtime for a short period of time
  • Medication for anxiety or stress

In the case that your teeth grinding is caused by a sleep disorder, addressing the sleep disorder itself can help improve teeth grinding. If other medical conditions are causing teeth grinding, your doctor can provide treatment for those conditions to prevent teeth grinding.

There are also a few lifestyle changes and self-care methods you can use to help treat teeth grinding, including:

  • Avoiding stimulating substances in the evening, such as caffeine or alcohol
  • Practicing good sleeping habits
  • Reducing stress and relaxing before bed
  • Scheduling regular dental exams
  • Talking to your sleeping partner to listen for any grinding or clicking sounds that happen while you sleep so you can report back to your doctor

If teeth grinding is causing you to miss out on a good night’s rest, the experts at Banner Health can help. Talk to your doctor today.