Grinding Teeth

Massachusetts Dental Society

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Breaking the Habit of the Daily Grind

Approximately 50 to 96 percent of adults experience bruxism (tooth grinding), and 15 percent of children acquire this behavior. The habit can occur during the day or at night, and more often than not, goes unnoticed by the person doing it.

There are several reasons why we may grind our teeth, including an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth. However, the most common reason for teeth grinding is stress. It is well known that increased stress levels can have a negative effect on one’s overall health, and these days, with the pressures and stresses of everyday life, many people are noticing that they grind their teeth more often.

Since most cases of bruxism occur while you sleep, how do you know if you grind your teeth? You may wake yourself up due to the grinding sound or from the pressure of clenching your jaw. In other circumstances, someone else may be able to see or even hear you doing it. However, because most patients are unaware that they are grinding their teeth, symptoms such as waking up with a headache, toothache, or earache, as well as tenderness to the face, jaw muscles, and/or the teeth and gums are all possible signs of bruxism. During a routine dental check-up, your dentist or dental hygienist may detect worn-down teeth or worn-down dental work on fillings or crowns. Over time, grinding can wear away or fracture tooth enamel and may eventually loosen teeth.

If stress is the cause of tooth grinding, then self-relaxation techniques, such as listening to music, taking a walk, or a having warm bath may help. Applying a warm, wet washcloth to the side of the face may help relax muscles, as well. Consulting qualified health care professionals is also recommended to relieve stress.

Keep in mind, however, that eliminating stress is not always the answer in preventing tooth grinding. An appliance, most commonly known as a nightguard, can be made by a dentist to alleviate signs and symptoms of tooth grinding. A thin layer of plastic (hard or soft) is molded to fit snugly over the teeth, similar to a sports mouthguard. This appliance can be worn during the day or while you sleep. Nightguards help protect your teeth and any dental work, such as fillings and crowns, from wearing down or even fracturing. The nightguard can also help relieve excess pressure on the jaw joint and prevent damage to it. The appliance, also referred to as an occlusal splint, helps reduce pressure to the teeth and prevent damage to the gums and bone surrounding the teeth.

Grinding teeth is a common occurrence for most people at one time or another. If you suspect that you are routinely grinding your teeth, the Massachusetts Dental Society encourages you to see your dentist.

 

View the MDS's news release on tooth grinding in children here.