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Teeth Grinding: What Causes it and How to Stop

Are you wondering why your jaw clicks or why you wake up with facial muscle pain in the morning? Perhaps you have noticed wearing and flattening of your teeth or even have occasional swelling around your jaw. It’s possible that you may be suffering from bruxism, also known as teeth grinding. So how do you know for sure? And, more importantly, how can you make it stop? We, at Caputo Dental, are here to help!

What Causes Bruxism?

There are many explanations as to why someone might grind their teeth in their sleep. This common condition impacts around 30-40 million people in the United States, and the causes for this condition can vary from person to person. Here are some of the reasons you may be suffering from this symptom:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Most people who suffer from bruxism experience it when under higher levels of stress. Their stress from the day continues into their sleep, which manifests as overactive chewing mechanisms.
  • Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnea in particular can lead to bruxism. When the jaw relaxes during sleep, the tongue can expand to almost twice its size—blocking the respiratory airway. In response, the body triggers the mouth to grind as a means to reopen the breathing passage.
  • Medication: Sometimes, grinding your teeth can be a side effect of certain medications—particularly antidepressants and antipsychotics.
  • Lifestyle: Certain lifestyle habits can lead to bruxism as well. This would include drinking caffeinated beverages, smoking, and alcoholism.
  • Misaligned Bite: Having an uneven bite can impact the joints in the jaw, which can also be a cause of bruxism.

Why is Bruxism Harmful?

While having bruxism on occasion may not cause much damage, grinding your teeth with frequency can lead to many problems, so it is very important to have this treated before the damage is too great. Some of the long-term issues you might suffer from include:

  • Loss of Sleep: There are many health benefits that come from deep sleep, including improving your memory, growing muscle, burning fats, and preventing disease (such as Alzheimer’s). Teeth grinding (as well as sleep disorders that cause it) can prevent you from hitting this stage of sleep, and cause health problems over time.
  • Damage to Teeth: Grinding your teeth with frequency can create stress fractures in the teeth, causing discoloration and ultimately cavities. If left untreated, you may lose sections of your molars, have erosion in your enamel, and suffer from extreme tooth decay.
  • Jaw Pain: Excessive grinding can ultimately lead to TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome) which impacts the joint connecting your jaw to your skull. It can be very painful and result in difficulty speaking or chewing as well as toothaches, headaches, and neck aches. It can even lead to dizziness, earaches, and hearing loss.

To prevent these conditions, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. There are a number of ways that Caputo Dental can help.

How is Bruxism Treated?

In many cases, your dentist is the first to determine if you’re possibly suffering from bruxism. During your exam, your dentist will notice if your teeth are flattened or worn, as well as if your airway appears to be blocked when lying down. In many cases, your dentist will recommend a special mouth guard to wear during your sleep. These night guards are specially fitted to your top and bottom teeth that will help to reduce jaw pain and protect your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist may also recommend going to a sleep study or taking steps toward stress management, depending on the cause of your teeth grinding.

If you think you may be suffering from bruxism, call Caputo Dental to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. We’ll take the appropriate measures to prevent further damage and get you back to having a healthy night’s sleep!

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