Grinding teeth is common for people of all ages, sexes, and walks of life. Medically referred to as bruxism teeth-grinding affects a countless number of people worldwide. Estimates for those suffering from bruxism ranges into the tens of millions. Accurately estimating them is challenging; many people who grind their teeth are wholly unaware of doing so, and many cases go unreported each year. Teeth grinding intensity can range in severity, may occur during daytime or at night, and may be a completely unconscious action.
Over the years, a number of aggravating factors have been linked to teeth grinding. Anxiety and stress, depression, and substance abuse have all been suggested as contributing causes of teeth grinding by the Bruxism Association. In recent years, advanced research in the field of neuromuscular dentistry has uncovered links between TMJ disorders and bruxism. During the day, bruxism can manifest as a steady, forceful clenching of the jaw. Daytime activities with strongly-suspected links to teeth grinding include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Reading and writing
- Working, and more
At night, teeth grinding may increase in both severity and its impact on the body. During unconscious sleeping, teeth grinding can grow in intensity. This can lead to impressions left on the tongue in the morning and broken, chipped, or damaged teeth. Often, it’s only after the damage is discovered that many people recognize their own teeth-grinding habit and begin looking for relief.
Grinding Teeth: Symptoms to Watch For
Due to the unconscious nature of bruxism, tooth grinding may go unnoticed for years. Other times, grinding teeth may seem like a harmless habit while actually causing damage to the teeth, jaw, and surrounding muscle groups. You may be consciously or unconsciously grinding your teeth if you suffer from any of the following:
Facial muscle discomfort. Grinding teeth places strain on the muscles in the jaw and on the muscle groups throughout the facial area. For those experiencing inexplicable facial muscle fatigue or discomfort, it may be indicative of unconscious tooth grinding. Facial muscle discomfort may also lead to sudden headaches, or mystery headaches upon awakening.
TMJ discomfort. The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is responsible for opening and closing the jaw. It’s also a prime component in clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth. Overexertion of the TMJ can lead to inflammation, pain, and other discomforts. Bruxism is oftentimes a common sign and symptom of larger TMJ disorders.
Shoulder, Neck, and Back Pain. Muscle groups are interconnected and may experience a domino effect when compensating for imbalance. The overuse or overexertion of one muscle group can have detrimental effects on others throughout the body. Chronic soreness in the neck, shoulder, and back areas has been linked to teeth grinding.
Excessive Wear on Teeth. Teeth grinding can wear teeth down over time, dulling teeth and increasing sensitivity. For those experiencing inexplicable tooth wear, chipped teeth, or excessive tooth sensitivity bruxism may be the culprit. Left untreated, over time, damage caused by grinding teeth may lead additional cosmetic and general dental procedures.
Stop Grinding Teeth
Grinding teeth is more than an inconvenience, it’s detrimental to dental and whole-body health. Bruxism has been linked to decreased tooth integrity, upper-body discomfort, and aggravation of TMJ/TMD disorders. Depending on severity and comfort level, solutions to stop grinding teeth range from:
- Quitting or reducing caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco intake
- Reducing stress in the workplace and at home
- Sleeping with a mouth guard, opening the airway and protecting teeth
- Contacting a qualified dentist for an examination
Many people suffer additional Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ/TMD) due to bruxism. Address teeth grinding habits before the onset of serious dental and health complications. Advancements in neuromuscular dentistry have uncovered means for diagnosing and treating bruxism, preventing the onset of TMJ/TMD. For those suffering from clicking/popping of the jaw, headaches, muscle aches and more, it may be linked to bruxism and TMJ. For relief from your symptoms, contact a dentist for an evaluation today.