Teeth grinding (medically called bruxism) occurs during sleep and is linked to other health issues such as sleep apnea. Chronic teeth grinding may result in loosening or the loss of teeth and can even cause fracturing or may wear the teeth down to stumps. When this happens the dentist will more than likely recommend a restorative procedure such as bridges, crowns, dental implants, partial or complete dentures or, a root canal.
Results of Teeth Grinding
You may not be aware that you grind your teeth while sleeping unless a loved one tells you. Not everyone grinds their teeth while sleeping. Stressful situations can also cause people to grind their teeth. Teeth grinding can result in:
- Dull headaches
- Jaw tenderness
- Excessive wear on the teeth
Ways to Stop Teeth Grinding
If you grind your teeth because of stress, you may need to have a discussion with your medical doctor or dentist about available options to help reduce your stress. Several options that may help you reduce stress are:
- Developing an exercise program
- Seeing a physical therapist or a stress counselor
- Taking a prescribed muscle relaxant
Suffering from a sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnea or Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) can also cause tooth grinding. Similar to sleep apnea, UARS is a condition when the inability to breathe leads to sleep interruption. It does not lower oxygen levels in the blood like sleep apnea.
You should request a referral for a specialist from your primary care physician or consult a board-certified sleep apnea doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Other ways to help stop teeth grinding include:
- Avoiding foods that contain caffeine (coffee, chocolate, soda).
- Placing a warm washcloth against your cheek, in front of your earlobe at night to help relax your jaw muscles.
- Not chewing on anything that is not food (pencils, pens, etc.).
- Avoiding chewing gum because it works the jaw muscle to clench causing you to grind your teeth.
If you are experiencing any of the signs of tooth grinding, you should let Dr. Sarah Cook and the team at Tarheel Family Dentistry evaluate, diagnose and provide a treatment option that will help to improve your condition. Contact us to schedule an appointment.