Bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding, is a common condition where you grind or clench your teeth during sleep. While the exact cause of the condition is not known, it is often related to stress, medications, or sleep disorders. But, if you do this during your sleep, how do you know if you are grinding your teeth? Are there any physical signs that point to teeth grinding?
Common Symptoms That May Point to Teeth Grinding
Because teeth grinding occurs when you are sleeping, many people go undiagnosed. However, there are some physical symptoms that are common with teeth grinding that you may experience. While these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you are grinding your teeth, they can point to teeth grinding or other jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ.
- Waking up with headaches, often starting in the temple area
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw, neck, or face. This pain is due to the force and pressure that occurs during teeth grinding
- Unexplained earaches (the pain isn’t really from your ear but from the pressure caused during teeth grinding)
- Waking up feeling like you didn’t sleep (teeth grinding can contribute to frequent waking throughout the night)
- Tooth sensitivity occurs due to damage from the force of teeth grinding. You may experience a new sensitivity to hot or cold.
These symptoms often send people to their doctors looking for answers. In many cases, once other conditions are ruled out, these symptoms are often enough to point to teeth grinding. However, symptoms are not the only signs. Regular teeth grinding can also cause physical changes. While you may not notice these changes, your dentist definitely can.
You may never experience any of the above symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t grinding your teeth. During a routine dental exam, your dentist may reveal that they believe you are grinding your teeth. But how would they know? The answer is your teeth tell a story.
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Nighttime teeth grinding places extreme force on your teeth. Just imagine trying to chew through a tough piece of steak. Now image that force without the steak providing a buffer! That’s what happens when you grind your teeth. This regular force and pressure gradually change the appearance of your teeth, as well as your tongue or cheeks. Possible physical signs of regular teeth grinding include:
- Your teeth appear flat – Your teeth have natural bumps and contours on their surface that help you chew. If you grind your teeth at night, you are grinding down these surface bumps, resulting in teeth that appear flat.
- Loss of tooth enamel – regular force from grinding can wear away tooth enamel over time. This enamel is your tooth’s protective layer, so the loss of enamel can contribute to dental complications. If you experience an increase in dental decay, cavities, or even tooth loss, chances are your teeth grinding may be taking a toll on your enamel.
- Sores inside your cheeks – When you grind your teeth at night, it is common for your teeth to catch the soft tissue of your cheek in between. This results in sores in the mouth that can be painful.
- Tongue indentations – Known as scalloped tongue, teeth indentations occur around the outside of the tongue. When you clench or grind your teeth, you often press your tongue against the teeth with great force. This leaves your tongue with indentations.
In severe cases of untreated teeth grinding, you may also notice changes in your facial structure. Just as your biceps grow when you work out at the gym, your jaw muscles can grow in size due to the force of nighttime teeth grinding.
A Nighttime Guard Can Help
If your doctor or dentist has noticed signs of teeth grinding, they may recommend you wear a nightguard, or teeth grinding guard. This oral appliance is designed to snuggly fit your teeth and provide a cushion for your grinding. This cushion helps to relax the muscles and reduce the force that is placed on the teeth. Wearing a guard can reduce headaches and facial pain, as well as protect your teeth from damage.
Your dentist can make a mold of your teeth and send that mold to a dental lab to create your night guard. Unfortunately, through a dentist, these guards can be expensive, averaging between $300 and $1000. Teeth grinding guards are not always covered by insurance, so this cost is often too much for many people. It’s important to note that with proper care, most teeth-grinding guards will last for 2 years before you need a replacement.
The good news is SportingSmiles understands how important custom-fit teeth grinding guards are for good oral and physical health. We bypass the dentist with our patented self-impression kit. You make the mold of your teeth in the comfort of your own home then send it to our dental lab. Our dental technicians make your guard and send it directly to you, at a cost of under $100. For more information, visit Teeth Grinding Guards today.