Untreated teeth grinding may cause permanent dental damage. Here’s what to do about it.
Grit your teeth! Keep a stiff upper lip! This is the advice some may offer, or receive, when faced with stress or an uncomfortable situation. While it may be good advice in a figurative sense, literally clenching your lips or jaws or grinding your teeth is not the healthiest way to cope when you’re frazzled.
The kicker is, many people grind their teeth often—and don’t even realize it. It’s called bruxism, and it often happens while you’re sleeping. “A lot of the time I will see people who have ground their teeth tremendously and they look at me with surprise when I tell them that they’re grinding their teeth,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a dentist in New York City.
Occasional teeth grinding may be no biggie, but if you’re doing it on the regular it could cause permanent dental damage, such as cracked or whittled down teeth, pain, and disturbed sleep.
Teeth grinding may be caused by a variety of factors, such as anxiety, stress, abnormal bite, crooked teeth, and even alcohol and tobacco use. In fact, one study in published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that people who drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes may be twice as likely to grind their teeth.
So how can you tell if you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep? Look out for these textbook clues:
- If your teeth are flattened all the way across, even your canine teeth (your pointy ones)
- If your jaw muscle are very developed or often sore
- If you have frequent headaches, especially in the area of your temples
- If you have achy or fractured teeth
If you suspect that you grind your teeth at night, it’s important to see your dentist. “[Your dentist] can make you a night guard that’s custom fitted, which will help you prevent cracking the teeth, losing the teeth, and other problems,” says Dr. Jablow.
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A lot of the time I will see people who
have ground their teeth tremendously.
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And they look at me with
surprise when I tell them that
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they're grinding their teeth.
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And if your teeth are flattened all
the way across and even your canine teeth,
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the pointy teeth, are flattened, and
the muscles, these masseters are very
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developed, it's very easy for me to look
at somebody and know they're grinding.
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Signs of grinding can be a headache,
usually in the region of your temples,
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because you've been clenching,
and your muscles are overworking.
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It could be soreness along the jaw,
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which is the masseter muscles that
have been working all night long.
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Or it can be aching teeth.
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It might not be a cavity that you have.
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If you have general aching in your teeth,
it might be because the teeth are sore
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from grinding them
together all night long.
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I find that people who actually grind
their teeth at night are generally
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people who do clench
their jaw during the day.
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So if you're suspecting that you're
grinding your teeth, please see you
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dentist so they can make you a night guard
that is custom fitted, which will help
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you prevent cracking of the teeth,
losing of the teeth and other problems.
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Teeth grinding. Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. (Accessed on July 9 2018 at https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding)
Association between sleep bruxism and alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and drug abuse. Journal of the American Dental Association, 2016. (Accessed on July 9 2018 at https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(16)30541-4/fulltext)