How to Recognize and Manage Teeth Grinding

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Bruxism refers to the habit of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth back and forth. It most often occurs during sleep, and you may not be aware of a problem until tooth damage or painful jaw symptoms develop. Most experts agree that teeth grinding is a stress-related condition. Whether or not it causes extensive damage depends on a number of factors including sleep habits, diet, stress levels, posture, and proper alignment of teeth. Over time, untreated teeth clenching and grinding leads to shortened teeth and osteoarthritis of the jaw.

Teeth Clenching and Teeth Grinding
Symptoms


Teeth clenching and grinding place intense pressure on the jaw muscles and other tissues. In addition to waking up sleeping partners and wearing down teeth, it can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. The following symptoms may indicate nighttime teeth grinding:

  • Anxiety, depression, and tension
  • Headache
  • Jaw tenderness or pain
  • Ear pain or fullness
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Eating disorders
  • Insomnia

Treatment Tips forTeeth Grinding

The tips listed below can help relieve discomfort, and protect your teeth from teeth clenching and grinding behaviors:

  • Remain hydrated.
  • Apply moist heat or ice to painful jaw muscles.
  • Deliberately relax your face and jaw muscles throughout the day.
  • Get massage therapy for your face, neck, back, and shoulders.
  • Use relaxation techniques, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, or cognitive therapy to reduce stress-related bruxism. Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Ask your doctor about physical therapy.
  • Stay away from tough or hard foods like steak and nuts.
  • Avoid chewing gum.
  • Your dentist can create a custom mouth guard or splint to reduce the damage caused by tooth grinding, or evaluate your jaw and teeth for orthodontic treatment.
  • Surgery may be recommended in severe cases, but only as a last resort.

Prognosis and Complicationsof Bruxism

While teeth grinding is not a dangerous condition, it can cause permanent tooth damage and chronic jaw problems. It can also indirectly lead to complications such as fractured teeth, receding gums, eating disorders, and bone loss. If your teeth grinding symptoms do not improve with self-care, or you have trouble eating or opening your mouth, make an appointment with your dentist immediately for a full evaluation.

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