If you’re not sleeping well or waking up with headaches or jaw pain, you may wonder if you’re grinding your teeth at night.
Nighttime tooth grinding, also called bruxism, is a common problem that affects people of every age. If you suspect that you’re grinding your teeth at night, you’ll want to talk to your dentist about treatment options. Teeth grinding can loosen or damage teeth. Chronic grinding can even wear teeth down. If tooth grinding goes on long enough, you could end up having to sit through costly and painful procedures like crowns or root canals to try to treat the damage. It can also damage your jaws and cause or worsen TMJ.
Your dentist will look for signs that you’re grinding your teeth during your bi-annual exams as well, because many people aren’t aware that they grind their teeth at night.
What to Look For
- Your teeth are the same length – if the edges of your teeth that touch other teeth are the same height, you might be grinding your teeth at night.
- Your partner complains about noises at night – if you have a partner who can hear you grinding your teeth, which usually sounds like a squeaking noise, you’ll want to tell your dentist.
- Do you find that you wake up with facial, jaw, or ear pain? Do you get headaches in the morning? – These are signs that not only are you grinding your teeth at night, but you’re doing damage.
- Are your teeth sensitive? – It could be due to minor cracks or chipping that are allowing hot and cold to seep closer to your roots.
- Are your teeth loose or do you have dreams about your teeth breaking or falling out? – These are signs that you might be putting pressure on your teeth at night.
Risk Factors for Bruxism
Nocturnal Tooth Grinding can be genetic. If you have family members with a history of grinding their teeth at night, there’s a higher chance you’re doing it as well.
Grinding your teeth at night can also be a sign of sleep apnea or other potential health concerns. While it was previously assumed that there was a potential psychological component to bruxism, that has been ruled out with further research. However, tooth grinding as a symptom of other issues is slowly being uncovered.
What Can Be Done?
If your dentist finds evidence that you’re grinding your teeth at night, they will likely prescribe you a mouth guard. While this won’t stop the problem, it will protect your teeth from damage and erosion. It will also help somewhat with any headaches or jaw and ear pain you may be experiencing.
If you’re grinding your teeth, it’s important to treat it not only to protect your teeth and jaws, but to improve your quality of life. Waking with a headache is not a good way to start the day, and if you’re grinding your teeth at night, it’s likely affecting the quality of your sleep.
Tooth grinding is also a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Your airway relaxes in your sleep, which can cause a partial blockage. Treating sleep apnea if you have it can also help reduce grinding your teeth at night. Getting a proper mouth guard that doesn’t obstruct your airway can also reduce apneic episodes. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to get it checked out and treated to minimize your risk of conditions like heart attack, stroke, depression, and high blood pressure.
See your dentist twice a year. They’re trained to spot problems you might not see and can offer treatment before problems become serious and painful. Taking care of your oral health is an important component of taking care of the rest of your physical health.