Waking up with jaw pain or experiencing frequent tension headaches and neck pain is a sign that you may be clenching or grinding your teeth at night. You may not even experience symptoms, but your spouse or partner complains about the grinding sound you make in your sleep. If frequent teeth clenching and grinding is negatively affecting your life, our Fuquay-Varina dentist is sharing ways to you can stop.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, which is the medical name for it, often occurs at night, while you sleep. It’s commonly attributed to stress or anxiety, and while those can play a role, there are several other factors that can cause you to grind your teeth, including:
- Having a misaligned or abnormal bite;
- Missing or crooked teeth;
- Sleep apnea;
- Certain medications, often SSRIs used for anxiety and depression;
Why Is It Important to Seek Treatment for Bruxism?
Keeping your jaw clenched for long periods or grinding your teeth several nights a week can lead to both acute and chronic conditions, including:
- Tension headaches
- Pain in the neck and jaw
- Fatigue in your jaw
- Fractured or broken teeth
- Worn down teeth
In severe cases, bruxism can lead to temporomandibular disease, in which the joint connecting the jaw to the skull is damaged, leading to difficulties opening and closing your mouth, chronic pain, and a clicking noise when you open your mouth.
5 Things You Can Do To Stop Grinding Your Teeth
Now that you understand the causes and complications of teeth grinding, some steps you can take to end this struggle include:
Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol
You are more likely to grind or clench your teeth when you’re restless or not sleeping soundly. Caffeine, especially later in the day, and alcohol both affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep, so it’s important to minimize or eliminate them all together.
Don’t Chew Anything Besides Food
If you chew gum or tend to chew on pens or pencils when you’re concentrating, that’s a habit you should break as it gets your jaw muscles used to clenching down, making it more likely that you’ll clench or grind your teeth at night.
Cut Back on Hard-to-Chew Foods
Chewy or tougher foods like chewy candy, steak, or bagels can add strain on already sore or overtaxed jaw muscles. Instead, switch to foods that are a bit easier to chew to give your mouth a break. This doesn’t mean you need to eat soft foods, necessarily, most people find things like chicken, fish, and softer breads, fruits, and vegetables are perfectly acceptable.
Minimize Anxiety and Stress
If you tend to grind your teeth more when you’re stressed or anxious, turning to relaxation techniques may help, from short term solutions after a stressful day like meditation or taking a warm bath to medication or counseling for chronic anxiety.
Take a Warm Bath Before Bed
Warmth can help with relaxation and allowing your muscles to release tension. Taking a warm bath, or even soaking a washcloth in warm water and resting it to your jaw can relax the muscles as well as help you relax your mind.
Speak to Your Dentist About Bruxism
As we mentioned, chronic bruxism can lead to severe damage to your teeth, wear on your temporomandibular joints, and severe pain and discomfort. When simple solutions and shifts to your behavior don’t ease symptoms, it’s time to speak with your dentist who can fit you for a night guard.
A night guard is made from plastic or acrylic and you wear it while you sleep. While it doesn’t stop the jaw from clenching, it does provide some cushioning and protection for your teeth to minimize wear and lower the risk of fracturing or breaking them.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Dentist in Fuquay Varina
You don’t have to live with the pain and damage caused by teeth grinding. Make an appointment with our Fuquay-Varina dentist office today and we’ll work with you to find the right solution to your problem. Give us a call at (919) 552-2431 or fill out the easy-to-use form below to get started.