What Can You Do If You Grind Your Teeth?


Teeth grinding, or bruxism affects tens of millions of adults and children every day. Most children outgrow the habit. Some adults experience bruxism only occasionally, but for many, it is a chronic problem that can wreak havoc on your teeth. Those who grind their teeth may not be aware of the practice unless someone mentions it, or they begin to have symptoms. And some symptoms can be severe.

An Oral Health Issue

The reality about bruxism is, quite literally, in some instances, painful. This sleep-related movement disorder can be a side product or indication of other health problems. For example, those who grind their teeth while sleeping often have other sleep disorders, such as snoring or sleep apnea. The latter can be a very serious problem that can affect other areas of your life.

Bruxism also increases the risk of damage to your teeth and jaw muscles. The pressure exerted by the clenching and grinding can wear down the enamel of the teeth. The loss of enamel makes a tooth more vulnerable to decay. Additionally, this pressure can cause teeth to loosen in their sockets, crack, or break.

Grinding and clenching your teeth not only causes problems to tooth structure and stability but can also lead to jaw pain. This discomfort can range from minor irritation to severe pain and headaches. The muscles of the jaw become fatigued with constant pressure and movement through the night. This pressure can lead to soreness of the jaw, head, and neck. It is not unusual for people who grind their teeth at night to wake up with headaches in the morning.

The Connection to Sleep Apnea

If your bruxism is related to a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, treatment for the sleep issue may put an end to clenching and grinding your teeth. Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, you may need a splint or mouth guard to reposition your lower jaw. These dental appliances are made from acrylic or from a softer plastic material that provides cushioning of the teeth. These devices keep the jaw in the best position, and they prevent upper and lower teeth from rubbing together. Some people require more than a mouthguard or splint to address their sleep disorder.

Occasionally a more extensive intervention like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is necessary to correct sleep apnea. As the name implies, the CPAP device provides a steady flow of pressurized air to keep airways open. The constant flow of air prevents the relaxed muscles of the throat and tongue from collapsing during sleep.

Treatment Options

Effective treatment for bruxism begins with a comprehensive dental exam. Your dentist will examine your teeth and the way you bite down. A thorough examination is required to make an accurate diagnosis and create the most efficient treatment plan. Each case of bruxism is different, so no one treatment works for all patients.

Your dentist will determine which of the several treatment options available will work best for your situation. Treatment options include specific therapies, exercises, the wearing of a dental appliance, or possible medication. Your treatment may require a combination of these options to produce the maximum benefits to relieve your discomfort.

Morning headaches and soreness in your jaw, head, and neck can be signs of bruxism. Make an appointment with Dr. Nishan Halim for a comprehensive examination to correct the problem. Call today to book your appointment so that you can look forward to refreshing sleep.

Remember, beautiful teeth are healthy teeth!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Note: Each November, I grow a mustache to support the Movember Foundation. This global charity is committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising $650 million and funding over 1,000 programs focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity. You can help – look for my DONATE  page. 

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in a comprehensive approach to dental care in his Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. He is committed to helping all his patients maintain a healthy smile. To find out more, schedule an appointment at your convenience.


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