Saturday, January 28, 2012

Teeth Grinding: Symptoms, Consequences & Treatments by Meredi Wagner-Hoehn

If you wake up with jaw pain, headaches or facial swelling in the morning, you may be grinding your teeth at night. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, occurs when a person gnaws, gnashes or grinds their teeth together.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

Although bruxism can occur while sleeping or awake, people are generally unaware of the habit. It most frequently results from tension, anxiety or stress; because of this, it tends to occur when people’s attention is avidly diverted elsewhere, such as during an intense work project or a crucial final exam. However, the exact cause of bruxism has yet to be determined. Facial and oral trauma has been proven to have a connection to teeth grinding, as have poor nutritional intake and a lack of proper sleep.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Jaw pain, especially if it occurs immediately upon waking.

Cracked or chipped teeth. The bruxism can actually exert so much pressure that, eventually, back molars may crack.

Cracked fillings.

Trouble sleeping. If you have the habit of waking suddenly without being able to ascertain why, you may be grinding your teeth as you sleep. If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your Lakeway dentist about bruxism.

Facial swelling. After working your jaw muscles for an extended period of time, they may start to swell.


Swiftly disappearing canines. Although teeth grinding wears down teeth, it can be difficult to notice because it occurs over such a long period of time. However, the canines disappearing can be more noticeable. Take a look at your canines in the mirror, and ask yourself if they were always that short.

Consequences of Bruxism

Interrupt sleeping partners. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the love of your life biting at you. It can be terrifying, and not something a partner ever wants to repeat.

Wear down teeth.

Break molars.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ occurs whenever there’s an issue with the joints connecting the lower and upper jaw with the skull.

Treatments for Bruxism

Cut down on stress. Since stress tends to be the prime cause of teeth grinding, taking steps to calm and refresh yourself can eliminate bruxism without any external treatments.

Ask your Lakeway dentist about a mouth guard, also called a night guard. These guards provide a barrier between your teeth, so when you do gnash them together, it’s padded, minimizing damage.

Correct teeth alignment. Misaligned teeth can contribute to bruxism; straightening and repositioning teeth with Invisalign® or braces can erase the teeth grinding itself.

If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth, call your Lakeway dentist, Dr. Robert D’Alfonso, DDS, for an initial consultation.