The fancy name for teeth grinding and clenching is bruxism. When you’re feeling particularly stressed or frazzled, you might find yourself tightening your jaw and clenching your teeth, and this might not cause any damage at first. However, if you are one of the many people who grind regularly, such as in your sleep when you aren’t even aware that it’s happening, you might end up with scary problems like loose, worn, or fractured teeth, along with jaw problems like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD or TMJ).
Since this is something that may occur during sleep, how do you know if you’re a teeth grinder? Well, being aware of grinding teeth symptoms is your first step, so we cover a few of the main signs of teeth grinding below. But, in addition to being more informed about the symptoms, seeing your dentist regularly is also helpful, as he or she can examine your mouth for early signs that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth too much.
Grinding Teeth Symptoms That Occur in the Mouth
Unfortunately, teeth grinding can cause some major problems within the mouth.
You might notice that your teeth feel more sensitive than usual, or you might even feel pain in your chompers.
The enamel of your teeth might end up getting worn down, and this can cause the inner layers of the teeth to become exposed. Not a good thing!
The development of stress fractures, as well as what is referred to as craze lines (these are hairline cracks that occur vertically in the teeth), may indicate that you’re clenching or grinding.
Over time, because of excessive grinding, you might end up looking in the mirror and noticing that your pearly whites look flattened, or they might be chipped. As the damage continues, you might even end up losing your teeth as a result of the grinding!
On top of hurting your natural teeth, grinding may also cause damage to dental work, such as fillings.
If you are unconsciously grabbing the inside of your cheeks with your teeth while you’re sleeping, and you’re clenching or grinding, you might start to notice damage in the cheek, too.
Interesting fact: Although you may not even be aware that you’re grinding your teeth at night, your partner might be able to hear it and tell you about it. Whoa!
Grinding Teeth Symptoms That Go Beyond Your Mouth
As if the damage to your mouth wasn’t bad enough, when you grind or clench your teeth excessively, symptoms outside of the mouth might arise as well.
First off, you might notice that you have a headache that can be described as dull. You might feel it when you wake up, and it might start in your temples.
Your jaw might feel tender, stiff, or sore. This might be the case especially when you wake up in the morning because you’ve been holding so much tension in the jaw throughout the night.
On top of that, you may notice that the muscles of your jaw feel tight. The muscles might even feel tired, or your jaw might make a clicking or popping sound when you open and close it. Plus, the muscles may become so tight that the jaw becomes locked, making it difficult to open and close it comfortably and completely. Simple things like chewing, talking, and even swallowing, could become painful.
Over time, the jaw might become misaligned, creating even more problems that would require professional treatment.
Bruxism problems extend beyond the jaw, too. A feeling of soreness, or outright pain, might occur in the face and/or neck. And, you might even begin to feel as though you have pain in your ears. Some people end up mistaking this pain for an earache even though nothing is wrong with the ear itself.
Finally, if you’re noticing that you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep anymore and you can’t quite figure out why, it might have something to do with teeth grinding or clenching.
Have Symptoms? Your Dentist Can Help You Get Relief!
The bad news is that, without treatment, your teeth grinding symptoms could worsen and start to cause serious damage. The good news, however, is that your dentist can help you get relief. For example, he or she might recommend a mouthguard that you can wear at night to protect your pearly whites. And your dentist can also help resolve any existing dental problems, such as tooth fractures or damaged fillings.
The sooner you get treatment for teeth grinding, the better, and having dental insurance can help ensure you won’t ever have to skip an appointment. Then, once you’re no longer grinding your chompers, you’ll likely notice that symptoms like headaches and pain in the face subside. So, if you think you might be grinding your teeth, or if you already know that this is a problem for you, it’s wise to check in with your dentist for some expert guidance.