If you often wake up with a sore jaw, headache, and/or you feel your teeth are sensitive to heat and cold, you may be a grinder. Also called bruxism, teeth grinding affects up to 50 percent of the population. Clenching your teeth and grinding while you sleep may seem harmless, however if not treated it can lead to fracturing, loosening or even loss of teeth.
Some effects of bruxism include:
- Pain and damage to the gums and teeth
- Sore facial muscles, headaches and earaches
- Shortened teeth, from being ground down
- Sensitive teeth, due to worn enamel
- Fractured teeth and cracked fillings from the pressure of grinding
- Damaged TMJ (the small joint connecting the lower jaw with the upper jaw)
The first thing you should do if you think you grind your teeth in your sleep is to see your dentist. Dr. Baker will examine your mouth for signs of grinding. You can be fitted for a mouth guard to wear at night, that will keep you from grinding in your sleep.
Here are some tips you can do to cut down on grinding:
- Avoid or cut back on caffeine
- Avoid alcohol, which can intensify grinding
- Do not chew on anything other than food. Avoid chewing gum, as it makes your jaw muscles used to clenching, making you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself. If you notice you are clenching or grinding during the day (like in traffic), position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This will help your jaw muscles relax.
- Try holding a warm washcloth against your cheek, in front of your earlobe to relax your jaw muscles at night.
Sources: Michigan Dental Association and WebMD